Book Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

by V. Shalace [September 11, 2021]

Book Cover for Jackaby

Abigail Rook arrives in 1892 New England in search of work after a disappointing stint abroad hunting for and failing to find adventure. Her hopes of finding a job seem slim, however, until she comes across an advertisement for an assistant that leads her to R. F. Jackaby, investigator of the unexplained. As the two work to solve a series of strange murders, Abigail gets her first glimpse into the world of the supernatural.

Maybe it’s a strange thing to say about a serial killer murder mystery, but I found this book to be a relaxing read. Told from the first-person perspective of the protagonist Abigail, this first installment of the four-book series did a good job easing me into the universe of the book. The more old-time port setting was a nice complement to the use of folkloric elements such as faeries and goblins.

There is a certain subtle humor in Abigail’s voice as a narrator that appealed to me, and I appreciated the author’s decision to make the protagonist someone with no supernatural powers. Instead, what makes Abigail “special” is that she is an ordinary and fairly observant person. Although a little slow on the uptake in the face of extraordinary creatures and phenomenon she’s unfamiliar with, she learns, adapts, and nonetheless manages to contribute a great deal in her own way.

Perhaps my one complaint about the story was how slowly the characters put two and two together. Normally, I don’t care if I can tell who the villain is right away. However, my own familiarity with the folklore the story referenced meant that I was often frustrated when the protagonist failed to pick up on clues and information that seemed obvious to me. By that same token, she would sometimes make assumptions or leap to conclusions that, from my perspective, were obviously incorrect. Was this problematic? Not really, since I was just looking for something light to read. But if I was in a more serious mood, this might have bothered me more.

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