I went into reading Jackaby by William Ritter knowing very little about it. . .other than the fact that it had likened to both Doctor Who and Sherlock. I expected to be annoyed by the book (what with the bar set that high and all), but I was pleasantly surprised.
(No Spoilers Ahead!)
Abigail Rook longs for adventure. Her parents, both rather traditional, want her to get educated and get married. Feeling as if she has no other choice, Abigail runs off with an archaeological dig to the Ukraine. Her brash attempt at adventure goes badly. Determined not to return to England (and her parents) in shame, she takes a ship to America in the hope that, this time, her adventure-seeking won’t disappoint.
Her first day in America doesn’t prove entirely auspicious at first. Without cash in her pocket, she’s forced to seek work immediately. Unfortunately, no one appears to be hiring. She finds no job leads at all until she stumbles upon a listing for an Investigative Assistant at the post office. Feeling that she meets the criteria for the position, Abigail heads to the investigative service’s office.
From the moment she steps foot in the office, her life will never be the same.
Thanks to the nature of the detective service and it’s unusual detective, Jackaby, Abigail encounters ghosts, ducks who used to be Investigative Assistants themselves, banshees, and many other otherworldly creatures.
Much to both her chagrin (and fascination), Abigail Rook is dragged into a very dangerous murder investigation. This time, her desire for adventure might just have lead to her untimely death.
The book jacket sells Jackaby as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock.” The association left me skeptical until I started reading. Jackaby definitely has a lot a similarities to both series. If the Doctor had the ability to “see” mythical creatures rather than travel through time and space, I imagine he’d be very like Jackaby. I found it especially amusing that Jackaby seems to have the style sense of the 4th Doctor–complete with absurdly long scarf, eccentric hat, and raggedy coat.
(Side Note: I’m very interested in the appearance of the knit scarf and hat. I’d be tempted to make myself one or the other if I could figure out what they looked like. They just sound so comfy and eccentric!)
As for the Sherlock-y-ness of the book, Jackaby has bravado and awkwardness akin to that of Sherlock Holmes, and his unconventional behavior and bluntness creates a very familiar animosity between the police and himself. The interaction between Jackaby and Marlowe are especially similar to Sherlock’s and Lestrade’s–which was, truthfully, kind of fun to witness is a very different sort of story.
With it’s “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” claim, this book did set up very lofty and nerdy expectations for a reader like me, and surprisingly, with most things, it delivered. I liked Jackaby and Abigail as characters and the book only left me wanting to know more about them. I would love to read their further adventures, and thankfully, this is the first in a series so I’ll be able to.
In addition to the main two characters, there was a wide and interesting cast of minor characters. I liked the duck-who-used-to-be-a-person and Jenny especially. I think it would be cool for those two to team up for a side adventure somewhere down the road.
While the slightly Whovian set-up and characters made this story a fun, little romp, the main focus of the plot–the murder mystery–was fairly weak. I knew the killer VERY early on and one of the major twists could be seen a mile off. (Subtle this book was not.) Still, I enjoyed myself thoroughly following Jackaby and Abigail on their road to the same conclusion so I wasn’t as annoyed with lack of a good mystery as I otherwise might have been.
I’d definitely recommend this book in spite of this weakness. It’s an amusing read, and I hope the series will only get better from here on out.