It's 1892 and Abigail Rook is looking for a job in New Fiddleham, New England. No sooner has she gotten off the ship she took from Europe than she meets the peculiar detective R.F. Jackaby. He uses Sherlockian deduction mixed with some Harry Potteresque crytozoological beings to determine Abigail has recently been in Eastern Europe. Not that long after their chance encounter, the intrepid Abigail enters into his employ and meets the supernatural residents of his home.
Billed as Doctor Who meet Sherlock Holmes, the young adult novel Jackaby (Algonquin Young Readers, 2014) and its sequel Beastly Boneswill appeal to the YA readers who are Harry Potter and mystery lovers, and judging from videos like the one below, as well as a plethora of YouTube reviews (which are apparently a thing) the novels have gotten a loyal following.
Local readers will notice that there is a certain Lane County flair to the books, despite their New England setting. Ritter lives in Springfield, and one of the characters a homeless woman with a hint of supernatural powers, Hatun, bears a strong resemblance to Hatoon Victoria Adkins, an unhoused woman who made her home near the University of Oregon bookstore, where a shrine to her remains. Adkins was hit by a care and died in 2005 and was mourned by the many who knew her around campus.
Ritter writes of Hatun:
Jackaby hesitated, and when he spoke, his answer had a soft earnestness to it. “Hatun sees a different world than you or I, a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are.”
Kirkus gives Beastly Bones a starred review:
[A] fast-paced sequel to Jackaby…As bones go missing—and then small livestock—methodical investigation and scientific experimentation yield to madcap chases, slapstick humor, and romance. Ritter's blends—fantasy and mystery, action and tension, oddball detective and able sidekick—employ but exceed their stock elements. With one case closed but two unsolved, the well-matched, well-written duo will undoubtedly return to fight a more fearsome foe. A witty and weird adventure equal parts Sherlock and Three Stooges.
The Corvalis-Benton County Public Library hosts Will Ritter 6 pm Aug. 18. 645 NW Monroe Avenue, Corvallis.