Jackaby by William Ritter (5 out of 5)

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I had hoped the above image was larger than it appears to be. The cover is minus the quote from the book. I found this, as usual, when checking out the Ingram catalog at work. I think it may also have been profiled in Publishers Weekly. Either way, the minute I read about it (or my coworker may have read it. I do not remember), I knew I had to read it. William Ritter’s debut novel is targeted to the young adult crowd, but I’m a forty something who really enjoyed the hell out of it. I highly recommend you to read it.

Abagail Rook is a young lady who’s sick of waiting around to go on an excavation dig with her father, or for any adventure at all to enter her young life. She takes matters into her own hands and makes off with money that her parents gave her, and hops on a boat to America. She ends up in New Fiddleham, England, looking for lodging, the aforementioned adventure, and a job. She finds all of that and more when she meets an eccentric young investigator named R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby expresses concern that she wants to work for him, given that many of those who had worked for him either are sentenced to a life as an ethereal being, or are now a duck. (Yes, a duck). Rook quickly finds out that Jackaby doesn’t investigate normal everyday cases, but those that have a supernatural tilt to them. He’s also, as one can imagine, highly doubted by almost everyone in the town, including the law enforcement themselves. It doesn’t take long before a serial killer makes themselves known by murdering several citizens in unusual and bloody ways, and she gets to assist Jackaby in the case. Abagail’s innocence gets them into several close calls, not to mention her secret infatuation putting her, Jackaby, and the town in danger when she fails to recognize the warning signs that the young man isn’t all that he appears to be. The serial killer is eventually uncovered, in a spectacular fashion, and with several twists that I didn’t see coming, which made it all the more enjoyable. More importantly, you can see that this novel could very well be the stepping stone to a whole new young adult series. And for that, dear reader, you should be excited at the long-term prospect. But I’m getting ahead of myself- first, read the book!

What did I like? Almost everything. Jackaby is a hoot and a holler. You want to give the guy a big hug- while wearing full body armor. You want to smack him for his lackadaisical attitude toward suspects- while giving the man clothes that haven’t been lodging in a dusty, spider-ridden cellar for centuries. You want to tear him a new one for not giving up his obstinate theories of crime and human nature- while buying him a new skillet to replace the one that ended up buried in a wall when he was experimenting with eggs and various herbs of doubtful nature. Abagail is a great young female lead who’s innocence and naïve nature lead her down paths that aren’t always the smartest, but isn’t that life and how we learn what is and isn’t to be permitted? She voices her disbelief and what she believes to be crazy ideas, and that’s exactly what Jackaby needs- a vocal sounding board and a new set of eyes. This works so well, on a whole, because the characters really do mesh well. I thought I read somewhere that it was inspired by, or meant to be reminiscent of, Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I can see a little of that, but more than that, I see a whole partnership between these two that works well because they’re so different in their ways of living, thought, well, everything! And I’m so glad that Ritter did not take the tried and true route of throwing some romantic mishmash in there to screw things up. Some young adult novels I recently read ruined the entire story and my joy in reading it, by taking the old tired road to romance. Avoid, cease, desist! It often ruins a good book, instead of enhancing it. In this case, it would have completely made me check out and donate the book to my local library. This is not a book where there is any room for romance. Even Abagail’s slight infatuation with the young man in the book, is realistic and she doesn’t give herself to fainting spells, gushing compliments at the young man’s feet, or other clichéd scenarios that have been practiced in novels past. Another positive.

I also enjoyed the writing of the crimes, possible perpetrators, and victims. There was no messing around with the depth of the crimes, and yes, some of it is gory, but not overly so. There is a lot of use of colorful metaphors and adjectives in this book that mask some of the cruelty, so the teens will not be overly scarred. (Although for those who scoff that this is too “violent”, turn on your damn news sometime. Sadly, it’s reality and the world we live in. It can’t all be Cottonelle clouds and puppies). I hope Ritter continues on with this series. My only actual complaint? That it ends so quickly! I can’t wait for whatever comes next.

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~ by generationgbooks on October 1, 2014.

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