Review of Ghostly Echoes by Will Ritter

GhostlyEchoesGhostly Echoes
By: Will Ritter
Release Date: August 23rd 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

My Thoughts:
I’ve been so excited about Ghostly Echoes because I’ve adored both the prior books in the series, Jackaby and Beastly Bones. Each book focuses on a character and the backstory and mystery surrounding them. In Ghostly Echoes the focus was on Jenny, the ghost that cohabitates with Jackaby at 926 Augur Lane.

As with both books before I felt the pacing was even and as always I loved the characters. I didn’t feel as connected to this story because Jenny hasn’t ever been the main focus for me. I’m eager to hear Jackaby’s story (we did get tid-bits and with the way this ended I think we’ll learn much more in the next and final novel). I think we all have been curious though to find out what exactly had happened to poor Jenny to leave her in her ghost-like way. Many questions are answered and we get to see much more of Jenny and her past.

In this book I felt that Abigail was able to really stand on her own and she took matter’s into her own hands. There were many instances where she had to go forward on her own and without the aid of anyone. She continued to grow and as always her brave and loyal attitude made her very likeable.

In this book we see so little of Charlie- he does enter the fray about midway or so but his presence was very minimum and there was very little in the way of romance or interactions between him and Abigail.

I really liked how Ritter incorporated ancient myth into this story and tied together plot points throughout this novel and the series as a whole. I found the mystery to be intriguing and not obvious. Of course, the supernatural bits are so much fun and really add to the historical feel of the books. Jackaby remained my favorite character and perhaps that was why this was so far my least favorite of the series. His role didn’t feel nearly as strong and his character felt a tad glossed over. We did get a little glimpse into his childhood but I wanted much more (as I said above).

Final Thoughts:
I found Ghostly Echoes to be a quick and entertaining read though out of the series I connected less with this one than the others. I did enjoy finding out more back-story about Jenny and like where things are leading for the next book.

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Review of Beastly Bones by Will Ritter

Ritter_BeastlyBones_jkt_COMP.inddBeastly Bones
By: Will Ritter
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

My Thoughts:
I am such a fan of the character of Jackaby and Will Ritter’s writing in general. Beastly Bones was a strong sequel to Jackaby and I really could read as many adventures between Jackaby and Abigail as Ritter is able to create. I adore this duo and felt that they were just as strong in this book as in the first. We even get introduced to a few new characters that I found easy to love.

Ritter has an ability to create a quirky, fun story and still keep it from veering into corny. Some of the topics approached (an assistant turned into a duck, shape-shifting kittens, etc) could easily become silly but for me, they don’t. I adore the complexity he has created in Jackaby especially. I want to find out more about him and I love that in each book we get a touch of his back-story.

Abigail was just as easy to root for and once again she’s a great narrator. I loved seeing her more in her element in this story since she gets to go back to her roots and investigate a mystery surrounding dinosaur bones. I was thrilled to see Charlie back too! Again I loved the interactions between him and Abigail (though I think they were a tad less in this book).

Though the main story line was a tad simplistic in some ways (I could connect the dots a tiny bit faster than the characters in some instances)the way everything pulled together and especially more info into Jenny’s past really made this novel intriguing. I found it to be fast paced and a very quick read.

The new characters- a reporter, master trapper and archeologists were well developed and each unique in their personalities and dialog. I loved that the archeologists had a rivalry going on which added some rather humorous parts. One of the new character, Hank Hudson the master trapper, had a touch of a Harry Potter feel. I could totally see Hagrid in Hank because of the love of incredible beasts and their larger than life personalities. Though I saw a resemblance it still felt fun and original and not at all a copy. For me, these books give a lovely tip of the hat to some many things I adore (Sherlock, Doctor Who now a bit of Harry Potter). I’m so sold!

Final Thoughts:
I could go on and on about how entertaining, quirky, and addicting these books are to me. I really adore this series and will continue to read each and every book Will Ritter writes.

Extras:

Interview with Will Ritter Author of Jackaby + Giveaway

JackabySince the first moment I saw the cover of Jackaby I became obsessed with this book and my need to read it. My expectations soared with the comparison to the shows Doctor Who and Sherlock and I couldn’t wait to get a copy and read. Because of Jon (Scott Reads It) I was able to get an advanced copy from BEA and I’m so pleased to say that I ended up loving this book, especially the characters. Ritter has created a cast that I’ll not be forgetting anytime soon as well as a strong plot that incorporates the supernatural with an old fashioned detective story.

I am giddy that today I have the author, Will Ritter, here to answer my questions about his debut novel. Thank you Will for joining us today.

What drew me originally to Jackaby was the stunning cover and that tag line, “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”  I am a huge fan of both series so I was sold immediately upon seeing the comparison. Are you a fan of both or either series yourself and were either an inspiration for your writing Jackaby?

Thanks very much! I am a huge fan of both—and I’ll add Supernatural to the mix as well, because it’s another easy and frequent comparison. All three feature characters who are fun but flawed, who are bluntly direct but not always transparent, and who have very clunky relationships with their counterparts—yet whose relationships feel all the more meaningful for their roughness. These character dynamics definitely appeal to me, but the parallels in Jackaby were not intentionally inspired by any one source. Mostly I was trying to write someone who saw the world in a different way than everyone else and unabashedly embraced the ways that made him weird and special.

I do love Doctor Who, which balances the quirky and irreverent with the somber and profound, and that’s a balance I tried to hit in Jackaby. I hadn’t discovered Sherlock or Supernatural before writing my first draft, but I became a fan while in revision. For those two, I was more influenced by their source material. I read the Sherlock Holmes mysteries (and his predecessor, Poe’s Dupin), and I studied mythology and folktales from around the world… and then I just played around and made them my own. Archetypes are fun! I love what the shows’ writers do, because I can tell they’re the same sort of story nerds that I am. I didn’t aim to write “SuperWhoLock,” but I love those comparisons, because they’re all doing such an amazing job at accomplishing exactly what I hoped to achieve.

 I couldn’t help but picture Jackaby meeting the 10th Doctor and how that meeting might go. Do you think Jackaby would work well with any of the past Doctors?

TennantHa ha! I jumped into Doctor Who during David Tennant’s run, and he’s absolutely my Doctor. It was not intentional, but it makes me happy that Ten is the Doctor Jackaby is most often compared to. Should they meet, I imagine there would be a great deal of speaking rapidly, many raised eyebrows, and very little respect for personal space. Ten would probably check his sonic and say “What?” a lot, and Jackaby would cock his head curiously and make indelicate comments about the Time Lord’s aura being bubbly and bluish, but tinted with the guilt of eradicating his species. Brooding. Then tea and Jammie Dodgers.

I read that you dreamed up Mr. Jackaby while up at night with your newborn son. Could you tell us a bit about that time of your life and what about the late night hours had you thinking of the supernatural?

I had just finished a year of teaching high school, including a Mythology class I loved. Teaching electives, much like writing books, is a wonderful excuse to immerse yourself in subjects that you find intriguing, and I had dug up far more than I ever got a chance to share with my students. My mind was whirring every day, and as the year wound down I was also fantasizing about teaching a mystery/detective fiction class the following year—which sadly never happened. Summer hit, and instead of high school kids, I was in charge of an almost-1 year old. Infants are great, but they’re not exactly mentally stimulating. The wheels didn’t stop spinning just because I was on make-funny-faces and don’t-let-the-baby-eat-dirt duty, so there was a lot of daydreaming going on. The middle of the night was the worst, because I would wake up, he would fall back asleep, and my head would refuse to shut off while I was staring at shadows. That’s where I was when I met Jackaby.

You incorporate many mythological creatures into this story. Could you tell us about the research you did and what the oddest/surprising thing you learned was?

ChedipeA lot of the research I did was simply built into years of being a folklore nerd. Most of the casual references are from legends I encountered long before I ever considered writing a novel, but I definitely enjoyed picking up new ones along the way. My wife is a terrible enabler. She loves fantastical beasts as much as I do, and will send me details of creatures she finds. Between us, we’ve collected bookshelves worth of folklore of all sorts. One of the oddest (and I do love odd) is the Chedipe, an obscure monster from India who can assume the shape of a tiger with just one human leg. I enjoy the impracticality of the construction. I can’t imagine she was a terribly graceful runner.

Though many supernatural things occur throughout the novel the setting felt very realistic. As far as I can tell, New Fiddleham is your invention; but it still felt like a plausible town and very much a part of the 1800s. Can you tell us the process of creating this world?

New Fiddleham is fictional, as are the surrounding towns, but I did work hard to make them feel real. I was perpetually editing out anachronisms and working in little period details wherever I could. I surrounded myself with visuals of 19th century streets and buildings and people. Boston, in particular, wound up influencing my vision of the city, as did period pictures of my own West Coast hometown, Portland, Oregon. More than realism, though, I wanted a town with character. The town is not built with perfectly defined districts and a logical street grid. It grew up on top of itself, the way towns do, so it is frustratingly illogical sometimes. Streets might overlap at odd angles or meander off and change names after half a mile. Much of this is borrowed from Portland, where occasionally, just to get from one major highway to another, you need to take seven turns through residential neighborhoods, cut across an abandoned factory floor, and say a secret password while spinning donuts in the middle of a corn maze.

Probably my favorite location was Jackaby’s home and place of work. Your descriptions of each floor and room were so vivid I felt that the house was a character. Did it naturally develop as you wrote or did you have a clear image prior?

I wanted the house to feel like an extension of Jackaby—unique, and full of strange contradictions that function as one form. It needed to be a chaotic workplace that also felt like a safe, comfortable home, one where all of the mismatched residents could come to roost (some more literally than others). To this end, there were things I knew well in advance—like Jackaby’s mad laboratory or the beautiful library—but other elements just popped into existence halfway through a sentence. I would sometimes finish a line and say, “Huh. I guess there’s a duck pond on the third floor. Okay.” Some of my favorite bits added themselves, and it was my job to stay out of the way and let them grow organically.

Abigail and Jackaby are both such intriguing characters. Together they are the perfect balance of fantasy and realism. I felt that Jackaby’s character in particular has so much history and backstory behind who he is. Can you tell us anything about him not included in the book?

Thank you so much. I have grown very fond of them, and yes, there are piles of history about each that are not in the book. Some of it is being intentionally withheld, and other bits very nearly made it in, but were just nixed for pacing. There is an insufferably smarmy schoolboy named Tommy Bellows, for example, who has been inserted and removed multiple times, but remains in my mind as a part of Rook’s schooldays before she ran away. As for Jackaby—there is a lot kept intentionally in the shadows. He has had adventures prior to Rook, and he had a life before the sight came to him. I COULD, for instance, tell you a great deal about the seer who came before him, including some of the sad, sweet details of how her powers came to be passed to Jackaby. As a fellow Doctor Who fan, however, I’m sure you can appreciate… spoilers!

Spoilers

Immediately upon finishing Jackaby I ran to Twitter to verify that you had plans to continue this series. I would be distraught if Abigail and Jackaby’s adventures were over. Thankfully, you replied that there will be more. Can you tell us how many books are planned?

Nope. Not out of secrecy, but because it is difficult to imagine writing myself out of their lives forever with a definitive ending. I do have solid arcs in mind, the smallest seeds of which are already planted in the first book. I am definitely slated for one sequel with Algonquin Young Readers (Editor Elise Howard has been the story’s Fairy Godmother in so many ways). Following that sequel, I have at least two more books envisioned before I will have crested one particularly grand arc. Maybe someday I’ll get sick of their shenanigans and chuck Jackaby over my own version of Reichenbach Falls… but even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t keep his detective dead forever. I’m looking forward to following Jackaby and Rook on many more crazy capers, and hopefully more adventurous readers like yourself will come along.

Glad you enjoyed Jackaby—and thanks so much for having me on MFAF

***

And…did you notice that the Doctor Who art was done by Mr. Ritter? So, not only can the man write an amazing story he can draw as well.

Since Jon and I both ended up loving this book so much we wanted to share both our posts with you. Over on Scott Reads It you can find a guest post from the Will Ritter about Doctor Who.

And I also have a signed hardcover to give away to one of my US readers (I’m so sorry my International friends. I really wish I could afford shipping)
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Review of Jackaby by Will Ritter

JackabyJackaby
By: Will Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: September 16th 2014
Source: Jon from Scott Reads It
Format: Print ARC

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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.

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