Jackaby – William Ritter, 2014.
Since she was little, Abigail Rook has longed for the kinds of adventures that thrilled her in stories. Jealously following the exploits of her daring archeologist father, she determines to discover excitement by hook or by crook.
After absconding with her tuition money and ending up in New England, she takes a position as an investigative assistant to the peculiar Mr. R.F. Jackaby. In Jackaby’s employ, Abigail finds everything she’s looking for and then some.
Jackaby is a seer. Whether his ability is a blessing or a curse, he sees the extraordinary creatures of legend and lore that coexist alongside us humans.
In his hideous hat (made from yeti wool), long scarf, and bulky brown coat stuffed with arcane bits and bobs, Jackaby is a kind of Dr. Who of folkloric beasties. Science and magic exist harmoniously in his world view.
He can see the domovoi (Russian house spirit) and Klambautermann (German kobold, helpful to fishermen) that have attached themselves to Abigail. What Jackaby can’t see as clearly are the mundane details of everyday life, those noticed by regular people. That’s where Abigail is his perfect complement.
As Jackaby and Abigail investigate several mysterious and bloody murders, Abigail’s initial skepticism of Jackaby’s abilities – and his sanity – vanishes. Her world view expands to include both the marvelous…and the horrible.
Jackaby is a genre-bending joy to read. Ritter suffuses the narrative with a warm-hearted yet often dry sense of humor that just leaves you smiling. The wintry, small-town Victorian setting is a beautifully realized blend of mundane and magic.
Jackaby and Abigail and the supporting cast – including the supernatural beasties – feel very modern and human in their vulnerabilities and beliefs and hopes. This is a testament to some fine character building.
Jackaby (book and character) is eccentric and clever and great fun. Anticipate a delightful afternoon’s read. I can’t wait to pick up the second volume in the series. And the third. And… You get my drift.