I added this book to my list following some CBR recommendations, and picked it up last night when I wanted something new and light. Yup, bought it last night, writing a review this morning. So obviously, this was a quick read, but lots of fun nonetheless. This book was in the YA section, but it was blessedly free of a dystopian future, an epic love story, and whiny teenagers for a change.
Obvious things first, Jackaby is basically Sherlock. It’s mentioned in every review or blurb, it’s right on the cover of the book. But in a smart move, the author addresses this almost right away, when Abigail first meets Jackaby in a pub shortly after getting off a boat in fictional New Fiddleham (yes, I had to look that up to make sure it wasn’t the original name for Boston or something). When the mysterious man with the strange eyes proceeds to deduce exactly where Abigail has travelled from, and by what means, she responds with:
“You’re a detective, aren’t you? Yes, you’re like whatshisname, aren’t you? The one who consults for Scotland Yard in those stories.”
Once I realized that the similarities were completely intentional, it allowed me to appreciate the little tongue-in-cheek references, instead of nitpicking the resemblances.
Abigail finds an ad for an assistant for “investigative services”, which leads her to Jackaby’s front door. She tags along to the scene of a grisly murder, where she proves her worth by noticing all the little details, allowing Jackaby to focus on the supernatural. TWIST! In this story, the assistant is actually the one able to guess the dead man’s occupation by looking at the trash, whereas the detective character has the ability to glimpse the mystical and paranormal, and so doesn’t bother himself with the mundane. As Jackaby later explains it, he is still a man of science, and only believes what he can see and prove, but it just so happens that he can see things no one else can.
The ensuing investigation of a string of similar murders leads the pair to several mystical creatures and some near-death experiences. Unfortunately, I found the murder investigation a bit too predictable – still enjoyable, but I guessed the identity of the killer and another character’s big secret quite early in the book. Thankfully, Ritter has created a really remarkable world, and he writes with a dry humour that kept my interest until the predicted reveal.
As I said, this was a quick and easy read – nothing life-changing, but still captivating and enjoyable. It reads like the first story in a series; lots of world building and character introductions, with setups for future possibilities. Sure enough, the sequel, “Beastly Bones”, is being released later this month, and I’ll definitely be picking it up.