Mini Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Title:  Jackaby
Author:  William Ritter
Series:  Jackaby #1
Publisher:  Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date:  September 16, 2014
Pages:  299
Format/Source:  ARC/From publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery

“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. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

It took me a long time to read Jackaby.  Granted, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and it was not a fun first trimester, so I wasn’t reading much of anything.  But for several reasons, Jackaby took me FOREVER to read.  Overall I enjoyed it, but I had some issues as well.  So I just wanted to write a mini review where I share what I liked and what I didn’t like about the book.

What I Liked:

  • I LOVE both of the TV shows referenced in the synopsis (Doctor Who and Sherlock), so I did enjoy that this book was like a mashup of the two. However, I did have my issues with that fact as well (see below).
  • I like how, when Abigail had tried to disguise herself as a boy, no one was buying it.  Too often in fiction women disguise themselves as men and no one notices obvious things.
  • I liked learning more about mythical creatures, like the banshee. I, like some of the characters in the book, thought it was like a siren, but it’s not.
  • I thought it was funny that Chapter 13 was omitted.
  • There were some nice twists, even though I did know who the main bad guy was from very early on.
  • I think the story started getting good in the middle, and kept getting better. 
What I Didn’t Like:


  • Like I said above, I LOVE Doctor Who and Sherlock, so I did like that this book was similar to those stories.  But at times I felt like Jackaby was TOO much like the Doctor, or TOO much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. I also pictured Abigail as Clara, the Doctor’s current companion, whom I HATE, so I really didn’t like Abigail at times.  And I pictured Jenny as Jenny from Doctor Who (Madam Vastra’s wife), but that didn’t really bother me, because I liked both of the Jennys.
  • At times the writing seemed forced and stilted, and therefore hard to read. And in the beginning it seemed like there was way too much detail.
  • And like I said above, there were some nice twists, but I felt like it was way too easy to figure out who the main culprit was.
My rating for Jackaby by William Ritter:
More like 3.75 stars.  The story was interesting and it did get better, but I felt like Jackaby was a bit TOO much like the Doctor and Sherlock at times and it bothered me.  I might pick up the sequel, I might not.
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Algonquin
Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.


  1. Midnyte Reader

    October 14, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I really dislike when books reference popular culture – not that that one thing makes me hate a book, but the fact that you found it derivative makes me think I probably wouldn't enjoy this.

  2. Kami

    October 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    My first impression of the cover was Sherlock. I don't know if I want to read this or not. This is the first I've seen it. I love Sherlock, but I haven't watched Dr. Who.

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