Greetings fiction fans! Today’s offering got me quite excited – it has a little bit of mystery, a little bit of magic, a little bit of investigatory detectivism, a historical setting and a fun, pacey plot. It’s YA fantasy/paranormal detetctive novel Jackaby by William Ritter. Stay tuned at the end of my review for your chance to WIN one of TWO SIGNED COPIES of Jackaby thanks to the publisher Algonquin – woot!
It’s 1892 and Abigail Rook is fresh off the boat in New Fiddleham, New England. In her search for work, Abigail comes across a sign advertising the position of assistant to a detective of sorts. On answering the advertisement, Abigail meets one R. F. Jackaby and is immediately drawn into a grisly murder investigation with a paranormal twist. Jackaby, while being masterfully gifted in the ability to miss obvious social cues, is also possessed of a sight that allows him to see beyond the bounds of regular vision and notice all manner of beasties that inhabit reality, but exist outside the vision of ordinary humans. And it is clear to Jackaby that this particular murder has been perpetrated by a supernatural being. Unfortunately the local constabulary do not concur with Jackaby’s expert analysis, and Abigail finds herself scorned, threatened with arrest and locked up before the police finally come around to Jackaby’s way of seeing things. With a handsome, but mysterious, young constable catching Abigail’s eye, a banshee heralding the death of all and sundry, an assortment of odd new housemates (including, but not limited to, an exotic flatulent frog and a man who has been transformed into a duck) and the whirlwind that is Jackaby, it’s a wonder that Abigail can keep any part of her mind on the job. But if she and Jackaby can’t unravel this mystery in a hurry, Abigail could well meet a sticky end on her first real adventure.
* you liked Holmes and Watson but you always wished that at least one of them had magic powers…or that their villains did
* you are, or ever have been, a plucky young girl in search of an adventure, preferably one requiring the use of a leather-bound detective’s notebook
* you are the sort of person that, on being warned “not to stare at the frog”, take it in the spirit of a well-intentioned optional guideline, rather than a piece of prudent advice given with concern for your future welfare
* you enjoy rollicking adventures with cheery, cheeky banter, a mysterious, dangerous murderer and an oddment of fascinating characters
I was pleasantly surprised by Ritter’s work here and even though this is touted as a young adult book, I would happily place it in the adult fiction category without a second thought. There’s nothing here that marks it out as specifically for YA and I quite enjoyed not being constantly reminded while reading that this was a story for a teenaged audience. About a third of the way in, I was favourably comparing Jackaby with Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud as both books seemed to have a similar pace and style of humorous banter between the main characters. While this remained true throughout the book, Jackaby had a much greater focus on the intellectual, investigative part of the story, and the development of relationships between various characters than Stroud’s book, and also had fewer wild action sequences. By the end of the book, I was impressed with the way that Ritter managed to balance the various elements of the plot to produce a really engaging read and well developed characters within a historical detective story with a supernatural twist.
While I enjoyed the murder mystery part of the book, I did manage to guess the killer before the reveal. This did diminish that part of the story a little for me, and if there had been a few more suspects to pick from, this might not have been the case. On the other hand, as this could potentially be the first in a series (and I really hope it is!), a less complicated murder mystery allowed Ritter to give more space to character and world development, which definitely worked to the book’s advantage in my opinion.
If you are a fan of detective stories and murder mysteries, historical fiction or paranormal fiction, I think you should put this book on your radar. It is the perfect book for snuggling up with under the covers, and as the book is being released in September this year, it’s just in time for you Northern Hemisphere mob to do just that! For us Southerners, we can spread out with it in front of the fan instead.
Now, to the WINNING! Algonquin have kindly supplied us with two, yes TWO, signed, yes SIGNED copies of Jackaby to give away. This giveaway is open internationally and all you have to do to enter is fill out the rafflecopter below. No cheating either. I’m watching you. Good luck!
Until next time,