4 / 5
"It was late January, and New England wore a fresh coat of snow as I stepped along the gangplank to the shore."
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
This book was a super YA novel, perhaps one of the best I've read in a long time. I think that my being enamored of it has to do quite a bit with how the author doesn't for a minute talk down to his readers; he treats them like adults, equals, using wonderful descriptions and (sometimes surprisingly) delightful word choices which really raised my enjoyment of the whole story. And, it was so wonderfully unique! Despite that it could have become a copy of many of the other supernatural teen books out there, it was nothing of the sort: it takes place in the Victorian era, with a lovely, independent young girl (Abigail Rook) as the narrator (and I can't get over how well Mr. Ritter wrote an adolescent female's voice!). And the creatures and characters encountered in the book are unlike any I've seen before. I wasn't even able to solve the mystery before the end, which is something I pride myself in doing more often than not! But this book just did a great job of leading the reader on a wonderful, exciting adventure, full of mystery and plot twists and just great scenes and characters (human or otherwise).
It might have helped that I had a bit of a crush on the eponymous character, who is adorably quirky, sure of himself, and perfectly disheveled. Not to mention brilliant and almost always right. Another thing I loved about this book, in fact, is that Abigail did not fall immediately head-over-heels in love with her employer. Rather, he was her (albeit often absent-minded) mentor. What little "romance" there was in the book was limited enough that this book would appeal equally, I believe, to readers who both enjoy a love story and those who avoid them.
This book is fun, quite enjoyable, and not condescending in the least. (Not to mention, it was refreshing to see a stand-alone book which didn't immediately anticipate a follow-up or trilogy! As much as it definitely has the potential for further adventure.) I'd recommend it to anyone, really. Keep in mind, there is a bit of the supernatural, but it's done well. Even if you don't like sci-fi or fantasy, you could easily enjoy this period adventure.
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