Author: William Ritter
Series: Jackaby, #1
Abigail Rook is determined to make it on her own, but life hasn’t worked out quite the way she thought. Her journey has led her to New Fiddleton in 1892 with nothing more than a suitcase to call her own. Desperate to find work, Abigail stumbles upon R. F. Jackaby, a private detective who specializes in the supernatural, and who is currently looking for an assistant. When a local journalist is murdered, Jackaby is on the case, despite objections from the police. He’s convinced the murderer isn’t human and as Abigail follows, she is forced to consider that the supernatural may not just be a figment of Jackaby’s imagination.
“There had been no gasp, just the sound of shifting clutter. I stepped into the hallway to retrieve the dish. The bedroom door slammed shut at my heels, and I spun. The light beneath the door vanished , exactly as though the curtains beyond had been pulled quickly shut, and I was caught by an icy chill.”
If you’ve seen the BBC show Sherlock then you have a pretty good idea who Jackaby is in this novel. He’s abrupt in his assessments and socially awkward. The problem I had with this character was that he resembled Sherlock a little too closely. Jackaby, of course, believes in supernatural beings like pixies, banshees, and ghosts. I suppose this sets this story apart, but aside from the ghosts living in his home, most of these creatures remain theoretical.
William Ritter’s Jackaby has little instances of charm and humor, but at times it felt forced and without real substance. There isn’t enough character development as neither Jackaby nor Abigail change in any way. We are given a couple of glances at a different Jackaby than the one he presents, hinting that there is something in his past that causes him pain, but it is never explained and so the Jackaby you meet in the beginning is the same one at the end of the novel. Abigail is our main protagonist but aside from her story of how she ended up in America (we are repeated told she absconded with her tuition money and is therefore likable for her gusto), she isn’t given any real depth.
I’d like to say the storyline itself with its string of mysterious murders and even more mysterious culprit redeemed the book, but the truth is the story felt tiresome and the end was embarrassingly predicable.