In 1892 New England, Abigail Rook is looking for a job. When she meets R.F. Jackaby and learns he’s in need of an assistant, she’s happy to take the position. But Abigail soon learns that Jackaby is rather unusual, and his work—investigating murders with a supernatural twist—takes her on a greater adventure than she ever could have hoped for.
This story is marketed as Sherlock meets Doctor Who, and that’s a pretty fair description of it. Jackaby is like Sherlock in the way he invites himself into investigations (much to the annoyance of the police) and solves crimes no one else can manage to understand. He’s a strange character, and disliked by many of the locals, but he’s not quite as harsh as Sherlock. He also has the ability to see supernatural beings, adding a fantastical layer to an otherwise straightforward mystery thriller. Abigail, the Watson/Doctor’s companion-type character, is ordinary, but it’s her ordinariness that makes her a valuable assistant. She has a keen eye for spotting uninteresting details in extraordinary settings, and she’s not put off by the gruesome details of the crimes, either. She settles into Jackaby’s world nicely, happy to befriend ghosts, trolls, and humans-turned-ducks, and she’s prepared to aid Jackaby in his investigation even if it brings about her demise.
For fans of mysteries, especially those with a supernatural bent, this story is a lot of fun! There is great dialogue, humour, and quirk in this tale. It definitely felt more like a friendlier, fantasy-based Sherlock than it did a Doctor Who adventure through space and time. Still, there are elements of both series present in Jackaby, as well as some originality that makes this a quite the enjoyable read.
Meredith (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)