Jackaby (Jackaby, #1) by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 16, 2014
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, urban fantasy
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If you know me, you know I’m a huge Sherlock fan. I haven’t seen the much-praised TV show on BBC, but I have read all of Sir Arthur’s works chronicling the adventures of his singular detective.
So, when I heard about this book, I was ecstatic. Sherlock in America? Watson as a female? Hunting for inhuman culprits in murder cases instead of humans? Sign. Me. Up.
Only, after I finished Jackaby, I found myself disappointed. While there was humor and there were several clever plot twists I didn’t see coming, the characters were rather bland, and it put a damper on my overall enjoyment of the book.
In the original series, while Watson wasn’t the main character and served partially as a self-insert for the reader so they could keep up with Sherlock’s peculiar train of thought, at least Watson had a personality. The chemistry between Sherlock and Watson was undeniable, too. In Jackaby, we have Abigail Rook, and, while she provides a necessary window into Jackaby’s mind, she remains nothing more than a bridge between the reader and the detective himself.
Abigail, unfortunately, has barely any personality, and is a largely unremarkable character. The same can be said for Officer Charlie Cane, who, while he seems nice, is never really developed beyond that trait. (Speaking of which, the blurb for this book seems to hint at romance, but, FYI to all prospective readers: it’s just that–a hint. There’s barely any romance in this book. All we get are some blushes between Abigail and Charlie and a few instances of her describing how he makes her feel nice and she can’t get him off her mind. Which is fine, but there just wasn’t enough chemistry between the two of them to justify her feeling this way. Perhaps this is because of the lack of character development.)
I wish I could say our titular character is immune to this, but he, too, remains largely undeveloped beyond quirky, peculiar and, every once in a while, witty. What should have been a fascinating character was more of a caricature with potential.
And, on that note, this book was full of potential. I kept waiting for it to go from being okay to being great, from being all right to being memorable. Several times, it stood on the edge of glory, but always backed away from it. The result is a fantastic premise executed in a rather unremarkable, amateur way. (This is a debut, and, unfortunately, it reads like one.) and I would skip it and read the original Sherlock Holmes instead.