“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
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.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
I was provided an ARC via GoodReads First Reads program. It has not influenced my opinion on this book.
It seems to be a fairly popular trend now to have X meets X in your YA book synopsis (see this article for a better explanation). And admittedly that’s what attracted me to this book. Doctor Who meets Sherlock should be totally awesome like this, but it’s not. Totally not.
It’s not absolute hogwash though, if that’s what you’re worried about. It has its moments. Like Douglass the duck. But apart from a few brief moments of goodness I was really unimpressed. I mean, comparing yourself to two awesome shows and then just sort of living up to the premises just well sucks. For the reader and for the original source material. Which is why I decided that for this particular review I was going to have tea with a few of my fictional peeps (that I don’t own by the way). What fictional peeps are these. Well, it should be obvious based on the synopsis. So, give a big welcome to Sherlock and the Doctor.
Sherlock: There’s no one clapping.
MJ: Obviously, this is a fictional interview after all.
The Doctor: Please, no breaking the fourth wall yet. I haven’t even had a sip of tea.
MJ: It’s fiction there’s not going to be any actual tea (besides those in gifs). God my head hurts, this conversation is really breaking the laws of physics.
Sherlock: So, Jackaby…he’s supposed to be me?
MJ: Yes, did you read the blurb.
Sherlock: Yes, the blurb. No to the book. I can’t waste my mind palace with such drivel.
MJ: It’s not totally drivel. It has a duck in it.
The Doctor: Well, that’s something.
MJ: Exactly. The duck and the ghost character were the best part of the book, other than that I felt like I was reading a pale fanboy’s version of well…Wholock.
Sherlock: That’s probably in part an assumption based on the blurb.
MJ: True. But when I read about an eccentric detective dealing with the abnormal, having a ragtag team of friends, but being sort of a loner I can’t help myself. It’s like he’s a regenerated version of the Doctor but without the Doctor’s memories.
The Doctor: That’s not the case, MJ.
MJ: How do you know? I mean, your memory could’ve been lost in that reality?
The Doctor: Simply, because the author does not own my property rights.
MJ: That doesn’t mean anything. I mean, haven’t you two heard of P2P (eyes Sherlock especially).
Sherlock: Oh no, we’re not going to go there. I have enough horror stories of me becoming a woman just so that I can get with John to last a lifetime. Thank you very much. If mainstream wants to exploit my fannon relationship with Watson at least keep the characters genders the way they are.
MJ: Or better yet, write something with original characters. Jesus. But I didn’t want this to turn into a lecture about unethical P2P is.
The Doctor: Obviously. It’s one of those topics that no one in the universe really wants to talk about. But it sort of happens anyway. So, did this character have a TARDIS?
MJ: No TARDIS. No bow ties either. Or alien adventures. There’s the paranormal aspect and he does have friends that I guess could equate to companions, but that’s about it. Hence, why I said it might be AU Wholock instead of an actual Wholock.
Sherlock: How’s he like me?
MJ: Detective with social issues. Who has a Watson in a non-romantic relationship at least in cannon.
Sherlock: That is similar, but really a lot of detective stories are like that. Do you have anything else to go on?
MJ: Oh, that Rittner tries his best to give the novel a “quirky” atmosphere and it falls flat. Because the character development is weak at best. And the plot is…well, okay.
The Doctor: Okay? Details. Please.
MJ: Well, the plot was interesting. If it would’ve been fleshed out more. I just..I don’t know even though I was interested there was just something very procedural about the prose that just didn’t work for me. I just thought it wasn’t fleshed out.
The Doctor: So, it should’ve been a two parter then?
MJ: It’s a book not a TV show and perhaps that’s where the real problems reside. In TV you can get away without a lot of exposition or details because you can show action scenes. In novels, exposition is an annoying necessity and this book lacked it.
Sherlock: Oh, please.
MJ: What, now?
Sherlock: Exposition isn’t required in a novel. A novel can be written quite nicely stemming of chaos and mystery.
MJ: Maybe for you since you actually like solving mysteries. But for me, I actually like to know what I’m reading.
Overall Rating: C+ good effort. But there were times, I had trouble paying attention and this book took me almost a week to read which is ridiculous given it’s page count. Some people will love this book and if it works for you that’s fine, but for me it did not live up to its potential.