Jackaby by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you are like me, you have two days circled on your calendar: The return dates of Doctor Who and Sherlock. (This is literary license, of course. I have no “calendar” nor have I “circled” anything. Like most fans in this modern age, I have simply tattooed the dates onto my children.) Those dates are yet a long way off, but luckily we have the JACKABY series to tide us over until then.
JACKABY is exactly what you want a middle-grade version of those two TV shows to be. It’s smart, funny, sharp, and unapologetically off-kilter. It’s 1892 and our main character, Abigail Rook, has fled to New England to escape the fancy dresses and less-than-adventurous expectations of a young lady in, well, Old England. She’s a practical, science-minded young lady who soon falls into employment with Jackaby, the town’s local private investigator of all things supernatural.
The character of Jackaby is clearly patterned after Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. He’s a mile-a-minute, too-smart-by-half investigator that sees things missed by others, yet is unable to understand some of the most basic human interactions. But while Sherlock spends his time finding practical explanations to seemingly supernatural events, Jackaby does exactly the opposite. His world is full of fairies and trolls and sirens and whatnot, and as Abigail’s eyes are opened to the magical characters around her, her sharp gaze and scientific insight provide the perfect yang for Jackaby’s yin.
Oh, and there’s a serial killer. I should probably mention that. This is a deadly serious business in which Abigail finds herself. I recommend you find yourself in it too.