"R.F. Jackby Investigative Services. Assistant Wanted. Must be literate and possess a keen intellect and open mind. Strong stomach preferred. Inquire at 926 Augur Lane. Do not stare at the frog."
The tagline on the back of the book had me hooked. That, and the tagline on the front that compared the book with "Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I love a good mystery, and I'm a sucker for the supernatural element, so combine the two, and you can pretty much guarantee I'll give it a try. I'm certainly glad I did!
While the title may be Jackaby, the main character is actually Abigail Rook, a young English woman from a well-to-do British family. Only, she is less than satisfied with her mother's desire for her to attend balls and seek out an upper class husband; she would much rather be off with her father on archaeological adventures. The only problem is, while he supports her desire for higher education, he refuses to allow her to join his expeditions. Determined to make her own adventure, Abigail absconds with the funds her parents left her for her higher education and spends a year with a paleontologist, only to find that months and months of digging is not all it's cracked up to be. With little money left, she sets sail for America and ends up in New Fiddleton, New England.
And that's where her true desires for adventure come true - - only not in any way she could have ever expected.
Jackaby is a quirky, distracted private detective that "sees" things in the world that others don't. Things that every day men and women would probably not want to see if they could. At first, Abigail thinks he may be just a bit off his rocker - - but when she follows him to a crime scene and sees how quickly he is able to discern things the police do not...sees how he is able to calm a disturbed witness's complaints of cries that no one else hears...and sees how much he truly cares about helping others with little thought to himself - - well, she knows she has to work for him.
Then, of course, there's the ghost that lives in his house and the duck named Douglas that lives in the pond that is impossibly in the third floor of the house - - a duck who used to be human when he first began working for Jackaby, but who now prefers his life as a duck. And we can't forget Hatun, the seer (of sorts) who lives in the forest outside of town, just on the other side of the bridge, under which lives a troll.
Jackaby is a whirlwind tale that takes its reader on a roller coaster ride from the very first page until the very last. The reader sometimes feels just as overwhelmed, in awe, and as excited as Abigail does as she learns something new every time she turns around. Jackaby is an oddity, and like Doctor Who, he seems to do his best when he has a companion (or in this case, an assistant detective) who helps keep him grounded. Also like Doctor Who, while he never comes right out and says it, he values his companion (assistant detective) and will do anything to protect them from harm (although sometimes, harm finds them anyway).
The mystery itself in this first novel involves a murderer who kills his victims, rips open their chest and soaks up their blood. Jackaby quickly discerns that this first murder is not truly the first, but rather the latest in a series of murders in surrounding towns and cities. The victim was a reporter who happened to discover the link between the murders, so the murderer killed him. And then kills his neighbor. And then kills the old woman upstairs (who also happens to be a banshee, but we won't go into that here). And while Jackaby and Abigail are at first considered suspects, they are soon released when the rather unbelieving, terse inspector of police realizes the only way he's going to catch this killer is by trusting in the most unconventional methods of all - those of R.F. Jackaby.
This is another definite must read for fans of the mystery genre, the supernatural genre, and the "just plain good ol' storytelling" genre! I can't recommend this book highly enough!
RATING: 10 black leather notebooks out of 10 for a rip-roaring good mystery with a cross-genre tale of murder, supernatural, and suspense!