It took me forever to finally read Jackaby by William Ritter (published 2014) because I didn’t believe it could be what people said it was. I’ve heard this was Sherlock meets Dr. Who. I read it to prove those fools wrong, because what could combine those two bits of awesomeness and also be awesome (yes I know they’re kinda alike in many ways but Dr. Who is far zanier than Sherlock, and Sherlock is darker so can we agree on that?)? It had to be an exaggeration. And internet (sigh) they were right; I was wrong.
I'm big enough to admit it (really I am. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT).
What makes this book a mix? Let me tell you the premise.
Badly in need of a job, Abagail Rook answers an advert to be the assistant to R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby, it turn out, is an investigator. He can see things others can’t (think creatures from fairy tales, but old school scary ones not Disney). Everybody in town thinks he’s pretty crazy, but they have to admit things tend to get solved and problems go away when he’s hired. When Abagail meets him, Jackaby is on his way to a murder scene. It looks like a normal human kill human murder. But Jackaby is sure the killer isn’t human and he pulls Abagail further and further into his crazy theories.
Jackaby permanently has one foot in another world. He talks to and about things no one else can see. Carries items in his pocket that look benign but let him do strange things (3D glasses Whovians?). And he runs around solving things without ever telling anyone what his plan is or the reason he does seemingly random things. He’s also very smart and looks down on those around him just a tiny bit. Abagail by contrast wants adventure and isn’t going to put up with any of his nonsense. Sherlock meet the Doctor; Watson meet companion.
But what really makes these books is the humor. Jackaby never follows any laws or rules. Has a talent for talking everyone into trouble, and is so used to getting arrested he knows the bailiff’s name and pretty much the entire police department. The situations can be absurd one moment and full of danger the next. But they flow together well and things never get as dark as they could. If you like Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, or The Clockwork Scarab then this one is for you (conversely if you like this one you might like those!)