Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...
Required Reading: Your life will be meaningless if you haven't read these superstars of literature. See More...

Of All The Ale Joints In All The Towns In The World

If you like your consulting detectives with floppy hair and their partners with a sassy attitude, then William Ritter’s debut novel Jackaby is for you.

Of All The Ale Joints In All The Towns In The World

BOOK REPORT for Jackaby by William Ritter

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Gift of Gab
Bonus Factors: Hints of Sherlock, Paranormal Creatures
Relationship Status: Partners in Solving Crime

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

I love this cover. This colors. The mix of matte and gloss on the physical copy. The handwritten title. The fact that there’s a boy on the cover, but he’s not trying to mack on a young lady. The fact that the scene seems like it’s happening in his head. Publishers: More covers like this, please!

The Deal:

There comes a time in every young woman’s life when she feels the need to take off—possibly against her parents’ wishes—and seek adventure. For Abigail Rook, the daughter of a famed paleontologist, adventure was always just out of reach. Looking for dusty bones isn’t the place for a proper young lady, you know. But Abigail wouldn’t be deterred, and so when she spotted a notice about an excursion to the Carpathian Mountains, she took the money her parents had set aside for her college tuition, bought some second-hand trousers, and left a brief note on her way out the door.

Adventure doesn’t alway come easy, however. The dig fell through, and Abigail was forced to make her own way to Germany to seek passage home. There, realizing that she wasn’t yet ready to face the proverbial music, she booked passage on a ship to America, and arrived in New England with nothing but a small suitcase and a few coins. Soon after arriving, she meets Jackaby, an unusual man with a gift for deduction, a ridiculous knit hat and a very strange way of looking at the world.

It seems that sometimes, adventure finds a young woman—rather than the other way around.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

Abigail is a girl who’s not afraid to take risks, even when she’s going against her parents or the “norms” of the period (the 1890s). In addition, she’s intelligent, street-smart and persuasive, but in a way that makes people like her for real, not because she’s tricked them into it. Additionally, she notices the little things, which makes her an excellent compliment to someone like Jackaby who sees the bigger, weirder picture.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Jackaby isn’t a swoon-filled novel, and it’s all the better for it. (This can occasionally be true, I promise!) Abigail and Jackaby are both good looking young people, but their relationship is more of the Sherlock-Watson variety—the standard one, not the Johnlock version. There isn’t much chemstry there, and I think, had William Ritter tried to force it into the book, it would have felt super awkward. Abigail does have a romantic interest in the novel, but their relationship is very young and very fitting for the time period.

Talky Talk: Gift of Gab

For a first novel, Jackaby is an impressive feat. It’s apparent that Ritter has a way with words, and an inventive imagination. He’s quite good at descriptions, too, and isn’t afraid to mix in a bit of humor when the situation calls for it.

The man wore an expensive-looking suit, which demanded attention. … On his head sat a velvety red derby with a slightly wide brim and a gaudy feather tucked in the dark sash. He carried a polished metal cane and walked with his chest puffed out and his chin propped up. The overall effect of the man was just a shade subtler than a sandwich board with the words BETTER THAN YOU written out in big block letters.

Jackaby is a historical fiction novel with a bit of paranormal thrown in, and has obviously been influenced by various pop culture detectives, but never did I feel like I was reading something that I’d read numerous other times before.

Bonus Factor: Hints of Sherlock

Jackaby isn’t entirely normal, and he doesn’t exactly care for the feelings of other people. But as a detective, he’s unsurpassed in the city of New Fiddleham, even if not everyone agrees with his unorthodox methods. Plus, he’s got a mop of floppy brown hair. And at least once wears a scarf.

Bonus Factor: Paranormal Creatures

The inclusion of paranormal creatures is what differentiates Jackaby from the typical historical mystery novel. The included ones aren’t your typical vampires or werewolves, either.

Casting Call:

Felicity Jones as Abigail

Ben Whishaw as Jackaby

Relationship Status: Partners in (Solving) Crime

You are both entertaining and fresh, Book, and I had so much fun on our first date. Sure, the stories you told were a tad gruesome, but someone in your line of work is bound to have less of a filter than the rest of us. I can learn to be OK with the sight of dead bodies, just as long as you keep me laughing … when it’s appropriate, of course.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Algonquin. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Jackaby is available now.

Jackaby is the FYA Book Club selection for June 2015!

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
K