Jackaby by William Ritter. ★★★
Jackaby is a YA fantasy story about a young women from around 1900 (I think) who gets a job with a detective who can see supernatural creatures. Right when she’s hired, there’s a supernatural serial killer on the loose. Unfortunately, while Jackaby had a lot of potential, the end result was just bland and largely forgettable.
Abigail Rook is the daughter of an English society lady and an archaeologist. Her entire life she’s read tales of adventure and longed to join her father on his digs, despite her parents instance that it is not proper for a young lady. When it comes time for her to go off to higher education, she takes the money for tuition and runs away to join a dig. The experience not being what she hoped, she winds up in America, in need of a job. She soon finds employ with R.F. Jackaby, a detective with supernatural sight. Almost immediately they start investigating a case of a serial killer that Jackaby insists has a supernatural element.
The back blurb really should have provided a clue of my end feelings towards this novel: “features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant.” Abigail largely exists as a view point character, but she does not do very much outside of being an observer. Given that the book is named after Jackaby and he’s the one featured on the cover, I really should have seen this coming. Still, I feel like you need your narrator to do something.
I wasn’t impressed with Abigail, but I also wasn’t very interested in any of the other characters either. Jackaby was a detective in the Sherlock Holms mode with the whole “second sight” twist, but he still ended up feeling like an uninspired character I’d seen before. There’s a few other secondary characters of note – a ghost named Jenny and a police constable who acts as Abigail’s love interest (although there’s not much romance overall). These characters had potential, but they never really captured me either.
If there’s one thing good about the book, it has an enjoyable whimsical element and uses folkloric creatures beyond those that you normally see in urban fantasy. There’s kobalds and banshees and not a vampire in sight.
Regarding the audio format, the narration mostly pretty good. The author had an accent that went well with Abigail’s background. However, I did find the way she did Jackaby’s voice annoying.
Would I recommend Jackaby? I wouldn’t push it into your hands, but I wouldn’t advise against it either. There’s worse books you could read. But then again, there’s also better.