by William Ritter
Review by Mel Jacob
Algonquin Young Readers Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616205461
Date: 25 August 2015 List Price $9.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Abigail Rook wanted to be a paleontologist but her father considers a dig no place for a female. Determined to achieve her goal, Abigail runs away and works on a dig in the Carpathian Mountains. However, it is ill-organized and funding ceases. She sails on a German merchant ship and ends in New Fiddleham in New England. Low on funds, she seeks a job but finds slim pickings. When she sees a notice in a post office for an investigative assistant, she decides to apply.
She is unprepared for the unconventional R.F. Jackaby or his strange residence. Somewhat Sherlock-like, he is interested in the unusual, especially things involving the unnatural. He tells her of a kobold and a domovyk who accompanied her. Abigail soon learns that a ghost and a duck inhabit Jackaby's weird residence. Abigail somehow manages to take all the oddities in stride and survive.
Jackaby focuses on crimes involving weird creatures. On her first jaunt with him, Abigail fakes a faint to get them into a building where a murder has been committed and he acknowledges she might be useful after all. The dead man, a reporter, has been killed and much of his blood is missing. Later, Jackaby finds Abigail's observations on the minutia of the crime scene helpful. They also meet a banshee, Mrs. Morrigan, whose keening signified the death of the reporter and is warning of another death in the same building.
They soon discover similar deaths have occurred in the countryside beyond New Fiddleham. The problem is how to anticipate and stop the killings.
The astute will have little trouble guessing the villain, but Ritter has a few surprises for all. He uses a variety of mythical creatures in his books often leading to comic happenings. Other Jackaby novels include Beastly Bones, Ghostly Echoes, and The Dire King (2017).