Jackaby sees extraordinary things: kobolds, trolls and other supernatural creatures. Abigail, his assistant, notices perfectly ordinary things that other people overlook. Like how many mailboxes are in the entrance-hall of an appartment-building and still remembers that an hour later.
Now that could make an awesome team but sadly it’s not done very well. Jackaby comments several times on how useful Abigail’s ability is but at no point it’s really vital for solving the case. Jackaby does most of it alone. And – in true Sherlock (Holmes) fashion – doesn’t talk about his thought-process until it’s completed (while insulting everybody in his vicinity).
It’s a pity that this book tries so hard to ride on the Sherlock-popularity wave because it wouldn’t have needed it. It has an interesting concept, the case itself was engaging enough to make me read the book in two settings and it was genuinely funny. (How can you not laugh at sentences like ‘I excused myself and went to see a duck about a dress’?) But then Jackaby came along again and showed how cool and edgy he was by Not Caring About Anything. I am getting rather bored with these characters and don’t know why we need even more of them…(on a related note: Abigail insists on being not like the other girls a bit too often).
The book also attempts to be both humouros and serious but doesn’t quite manage it. Yes, I did giggle more than once while reading but when it came to the serious part I felt nothing. About halfway through the book Jackaby and Abigail think that they (and several people they care about) will die soon. Their reaction? A short ‘oh no!’ followed pretty quickly by shoulder-shrugging and ‘well it’s not like we can change anything’. It’s hard to care about the life of characters if they don’t seem to do so themselves.
Apart from that the author drops some good sentences: about people who fight monsters in their head being just as brave as those who fight monsters from flesh and blood or about humans sometimes being worse than the most terrible monsters but…that’s it. Again the characters just shrug after saying (or hearing) these things and then go on with their daily buisness. It’s great that these things are said but they feel out of place and forced into the conversations these people are having.