Review | Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter


Title: Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Published: September 16th, 2014

Average Goodreads rating: 3.82

My rating: 4/5

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre. (Goodreads)

“I have ceased concerning myself with how things look to others, Abigail Rook. I suggest you do the same. In my experience, others are generally wrong.”


Jackaby has been floating around on my TBR shelf for quite some time now. I had even picked it up to read last fall but, for whatever reason, put it back down where it gathered dust. If I’m being honest, and I generally am, it didn’t turn out to be the book that I thought it would be. Usually when that happens it is something negative but in this case it is quite the opposite.

What struck me as immediately likable about this series is that the two main characters, Ms. Abigail Rook and Mr. Jackaby, have absolutely no romantic interest in each other whatsoever. You know how refreshing that was? They weren’t snatching furtive looks at each other at inopportune moments or mooning over the fit of the other’s clothing across the chest. No, those two worked together, and well, without any of the mooning that is typically expected. It allowed the reader to focus on the story, the mystery that was at hand.

The main characters are also very likable. Jackaby is highly intelligent but quirky and a bit odd. He sees the world a little differently and doesn’t give a hoot if people accept that or not. He is who he is, he does his job well, and he doesn’t let the opinion of outsiders affect him. It made him utterly charming.

Them we have Abigail Rook. She herself, much like Jackaby, is a bit of an outsider. In the late 1800s women were still expected to be meek and unassuming and utterly complacent to their spouses. Abigail is having none of that and goes off on her own adventures, people’s opinions be damned. Her detail oriented, tidy nature complimenting Mr. Jackaby perfectly.

The adventure itself kept me guessing the whole way through. As I mentioned, the story took a very different turn from what I was expecting. What I anticipated was a mystery with just a hint of paranormal thrown in to make it less drab. Instead the author went all in with all kinds of fantastical creatures but none of them felt out of place or jarring to the story.

Also, my favorite part of a mystery is trying to figure out the evil-doer. I usually get at least a tingle for who to point the finger at but this time I was way off. I never saw it coming however in hindsight it all made perfect sense. It was quite the surprise and I love when a story manages to surprise me!

This was a simple and fairly quick read. Despite that it was highly enjoyable and had my imagination fully engrossed. I can’t recommend it enough.

“It wasn’t that I did not believe in ghosts; it was that I believed in them in the same noncommittal way that I believed in giant squids or lucky coins or Belgium. They were things that probably existed, but I had never given any occasion to really care one way or another.” 


Find this book on

Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Thriftbooks

One thought on “Review | Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

  1. I loved this series for exactly the reasons you state. The romance that does eventually develop between Abigail and Charlie is very historically appropriate as well. Great review. I’m glad others are still discovering this gem of a series.


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