By William Ritter
Published September 16, 2014
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.
It is not a secret that I am a huge fan of BBC's cult favorite TV show, Doctor Who. I love the atmosphere of the extraordinary and mysterious that the show perfectly maintains. The Doctor's adventures are the perfect mixture of aliens, time travel, and the impossible. The TV show is honestly one of the most unique things I have ever experienced.
Likewise, Jackaby is one of the most unique books I have read in a long time. I mean, it is not often that I use fantasy and mystery as tags for the same post. And its similarities to Doctor Who do not stop there.
1. The main character is an aloof, mysterious, frustrating, yet terribly entertaining, man.
There are seemingly inginite parallels between the Doctor and Jackaby. They are both socially awkward. They both know a lot about the secret workings of the world. In Jackaby's case this means the supernatural, such as fairies and werewolves. They also dress similarly (David Tennant's trench coat = Jackaby's over-sixed coat). I mean, Jackaby's hideous knitted hat is the equivalent of Matt Smith's horrendous fez.
Unfortunately, I have the same problem with Jackaby that I occasionally have with the Doctor-- a superiority complex. Jackaby treats those around him as inferiors who cannot possibly help him in the investigation. Whenever he bothers to talk to his assistant, Abigail, it is mostly to criticize and condescend. But he gets away with it because he is just "socially awkward" and someone as brilliant as him cannot bother with things like manners and feelings. While Jackaby did have his good moments, I could not get myself to adore him like Abigail did.
2. The narrator is the underappreciated companion to the aforementioned genius.
Abigail is a spunky girl whose only goal in life seems to be to impress her new boss (which sounds a lot like Martha with the Tenth Doctor). She seemed too much like a feeble shadow of Jackaby for me to properly respect her. It does not help that whenever she tried to accomplish something, he berated her and tried to "determine her worth."
If you need any more convincing, Abigail is from Britain, where most of the Doctor Who series is centered around.
3. The plot is bigger on the inside.
Jackaby started as a seemingly simple murder mystery. I was intrigued with the premise, but not particularly impressed until the fantasy elements started peek through. I loved the stories and mythologies that were seamlessly incorporated into the plot. The mystery and suspense beautifully elevated to a full hunt for a supernatural serial killer. There were even a few magical twists and turns that surprised me.
Jackaby is seriously similar to my beloved Doctor Who in many ways. The concoction of the supernatural and occult with mystery was reminiscent of the Doctor's mix of science fiction and suspense. The characters are like reflections of each other (when it's time to find a 13th Doctor, Jackaby would make a great candidate).
While I adored the fantasy and mystery elements of Jackaby that reminded me of my favorite TV show, the characters left me wanting something more.
Have you read Jackaby? Do you like the idea of fantasy and mystery combined? Are you a fan of Doctor Who? If so, who is your favorite Doctor and companion? (Mine are David Tennant and Rose!)