Abigail Rook, the narrator of the book, is a tough, headstrong protagonist with both feet planted firmly in the real world. And she needs to be, or else her new job with R.F. Jackaby, an eccentric “investigator of the unexplained” will end up planting her six feet under.
A lot of reviewers have made comparisons to Sherlock Holmes, and there’s definitely some “misunderstood genius solves impossible mystery” action happening. But the dynamic between Jackaby and Abigail is far more reminiscent of Doctor Who and his (usually young female) Companions than it is Holmes and Watson. The dialogue is fast, furious and often hilarious. For the most part, so is the action – although there are some gruesome moments.
I really enjoyed the way myth and folklore were worked into this story. For the most part, Ritter steers away from cliché magical creatures, instead leaning into the weirder and less frequented sections of Bullfinch and Grimm. In some cases, he goes full Rowling and makes up his own bizarre creations, which fit seamlessly into this weird world.
It’s a 19th century* supernatural mystery wrapped in a YA call to adventure with a lot of humor, a few grim and bloody chills, and a dash of hinted romance (not between Jackaby and Abigail – their relationship is decidedly platonic). One of the more fun books I’ve read in a while.
It’s pretty much Doctor Who + Sherlock = Buffy / Supernatural in a quirky 19th century New England.
* Not Victorian, because it’s not set in England.