Review: The Jackaby Novels

There’s something to be said for books which are simply fun and quirky to read; quick-reads with witty one-liners and fun whimsical characters.

There’s something to be said (even more so) if the same books are captivating and clever at the same time.

In lies The Jackaby Novels by William Ritter, a series of four books: Jackaby, Beastly Bones, Ghostly Echoes, and The Dire King. The books were published in the years spanning 2014-2017 and each received (4) stars across the board in my reading journal – both the first time I read them and for the 2020 re-read.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about Jackaby‘s synopsis:

“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.

Side note: The whole “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” pitch is close – but I thought the plot elements were comparable to “Doctor Doolittle meets Sherlock” in a way, as well. (If that suits your fancy.)

So, here’s 5 of my favorite aspects re: The Jackaby Novels:

  1. New Fiddleham + Jackaby’s Home
    • I loved every bit of those late 1800s New England vibes. The cobblestone streets, the ever-changing shape of the city, the wild nature of Jackaby’s house (and its red door), and the variety of townfolk described.
  2. The fact the romance took backseat.
    • Keep in mind, I ADORED the (minor) love story but I loved it even more because it spiraled around the plot gently. It had a way of weaving itself between the conflicts, leading to character growth along the way. It wasn’t a wrecking-ball-in-your-face romance.
  3. Jackaby’s off-center wit + obliviousness.
    • Jackaby is NOT necessarily good at talking to people (much like the aforementioned Sherlock) but has a way about him that you can’t help but like, even when he’s insulting someone.
  4. Jenny’s journey toward self-acceptance.
    • Jenny, the resident ghost, was my favorite character to watch develop. The ups and downs of her personality, her mastering the inconsistency her essence first challenged her with, and moving forward mentally from “victim” to “survivor” was really neat.
  5. Those political/ethical clapbacks.
    • These books are fun, don’t get me wrong, but they also have healthy doses of reality (modern reality), too. Morsels on the topics of: sexuality/gender, immigrants, Native Americans, mental health, etc. — Ritter found a way to make a statement without it being off kilter with the story line. Very well done.

Overall, I enjoyed The Jackaby Novels re-read thoroughly and was grateful to have kept the books on my shelf, even through two moves and a mass Corona Virus Purge.


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