First Lines: It was late January, and New England wore a fresh coat of snow as I stepped along the gangplank to the shore.
I won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway, and I was super excited to read it. (Note: The book is set to come out officially in mid-September.) The back of the book says it’s “Doctor Who meets Sherlock“, and while I haven’t gotten into Doctor Who, I am a big Sherlock fan. I had to read this.
(Just so I don’t accidentally spoil anything, this synopsis comes straight from Goodreads.)
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.
Let me see if I can get my thoughts in order well enough to tell you what I thought about this without spoiling anything.
R.F. Jackaby is, for all intents and purposes, Sherlock. He is condescending and intellectually superior (or so he truly thinks), yet he still has a kind heart and cares about those he’s close to. I loved that. Ritter hit the nail on the head when he wrote Jackaby. He’s funny and smart and kind while still being incredibly weird. The fact that he solves paranormal mysteries makes him that much weirder than Sherlock Holmes. You have no idea some of the things he has in his house.
I thought the paranormal in the story was really well done. There wasn’t a whole lot of it in the story, but there was definitely enough of it. Well, a lot of the time, it’s just when Jackaby references different paranormal things he’s seen. But a lot of quite humorous paranormal does make its way into the story. I wish I could tell you about it.
I think the main part of this story was that it is a mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery was actually incredibly obvious (at least to me) as to who the “villain” was. I kid you not, the moment that character came into the story, I knew it was him/her. It was that obvious. But while I knew how the mystery was going to end, there were still some things about the mystery that surprised me. The “red herring” for example did throw me off my game for a few pages.
Now, this part is probably just me, but I could not stop thinking about it. This story is written by a man, and our main character is a female. Totally fine. Happens all the time (TFIOS by John Green, for example). But…Abigail goes into extreme detail sometimes about the dresses she wears. The petticoats and lace and layers. And I just could not stop thinking about how this male writer knew more about 19th century women’s attire better than I did. I didn’t really know how to take that.
Overall, I thought this story was a really funny and heartfelt mystery. The writing in it is really good and the story has so many levels to it, even if the mystery was a bit obvious. I’m actually a bit peeved that this appears to (for now) be a standalone novel. I want more!