Welcome, Blogland, to late 19th Century America. Here, women are expected to dress and behave like a lady, and if they’ve got any class, they definitely don’t work, but stay at home and dote on their husbands.
Less a reflection on America specifically, and more the general tone of the era. At least in Ritter’s fictional New England town of New Fiddleham. Which is a great name for a town. Very fun to say, especially if you do so with a posh British accent.
Anyway, this is the town the narrator/protagonist Abigail Rook finds herself in at the opening of the book. She’s more or less run away from home, in rural England, since she stole her University tuition money to see the world. Young Abigail, in her late teens, potentially early twenties, has had a busy year or two avoiding her parents’ ire. Time spent in Eastern Europe on an archeological dig, where she quickly learned that digging up dinosaurs was far less interesting than her father had made it seem.
From there, she went to Germany, and thanks to a giant miscommunication, her passage back to the UK became a voyage across the Atlantic. When she docks in New Fiddleham she knows no one and has just enough coin to rent a room for the evening. All her best dresses need laundering, which she can’t afford, and a girl has got to eat.
Basically, the girl needs to find a job, stat.
The next day, a day she intended to spend applying to local shops, turned into a whirlwind supernatural adventure and even landed her a job!
Enter R.F. Jackaby, New Fiddleham’s only paranormal private detective. He’s viewed less than favorably by the town’s “normals” and just being in his presence earns Abigail many disapproving looks. But, I love him! He’s part Sherlock Holmes, part Newt Scamander (I admit I pictured Eddie Redmayne the entire novel), and just a tiny hint of Buffy Summers. And one hundred percent a goober.
He’s distracted, brilliant, and completely lacking in social skills. His unbeknownst awkwardness made him immediately likeable, and irritating at times. But, this is exactly what Abigail has been searching for. Not necessarily the paranormal; she thinks Jackaby is more than a little unstable in that regard, but adventure! Intrigue! Puzzles that require solving!
Over an intense few days, Jackaby and his new Investigative Assistant solve a string of murders and both almost die a few times. It’s incredibly fun, and though a bit predictable, it is a YA novel.
That’s not meant to be a ding on YA, just an admission that books written for a younger audience are often a little less complex than those for an adult audience.
That being said, I was glad that the events I predicted came true. It was exactly what I wanted for the story and its characters. Well, almost. I still feel bad for Charlie Cane, but we’ll see how he fairs in the next couple books.
And that’s exciting too! More books! By the end of the book, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Abigail, Jackaby, and their strange little world within New Fiddleham. And now I don’t have to! The next two books are already added to my pile, waiting patiently in queue behind the next four books.
If I can be that patient. We’ll see if things stay in their current projected order.
Beyond the actual plot of this book, I think it has a bit to recommend it. An interesting and growing female lead. I wouldn’t necessarily call her “strong”, but she’s working on it. An extremely intriguing and funny Jackaby, and a complex world within our accepted normal. The world building is quick, but well done because it’s anchored in what we already know and understand.
And ultimately, I just had a really great time reading this book. And that’s something I want more of in my reading list. FUN! Jackaby delivered, and I hope the sequels will as well.
I’m hoping to finish The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps tomorrow. We have DnD tonight and tomorrow night, so I’m not sure if another book review will happen this week, and the writing has been a bit thin as well. So, not off to a great start for this week, but I’m not giving up!
Until then Blogland,