☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆
What it’s about:
Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant in 1950, Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives an anonymous note suggesting that foul play may have led to her disappearance, he sees only one option: to return to the rural Irish village where he was born and find out what really happened twenty-six years earlier. In HIMSELF (Atria Hardcover; On Sale March 14, 2017; $26.00), Jess Kidddelivers a black-humored mystery, a debut novel populated with colorful characters, a simmering blend of the natural and the supernatural, and in homage to her roots, a generous dose of quintessentially Irish humor.
From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony’s presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider ways cause a stir amongst the locals, who receive him with a mixture of curiosity, suspicion, and excitement. Determined to uncover the truth, Mahony solicits the help of brash, retired actress Mrs. Cauley, and together, the improbable duo concoct a plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of characters, some from beyond the grave. As flashbacks unravel the mysterious circumstances of Mahony’s mother’s disappearance, the investigation incurs the wrath of sanctimonious Father Quinn and the Widow Farelly, unsettling the village, provoking cases of letter bombs and poisoned scones. What begins as a personal mission gradually becomes a quiet revolution: a young man and his town uniting against corruption, against those who seek to quash the sinister tides of progress and modernity come hell or high water. But what those people seem to keep forgetting is that Mahony has the dead on his side…
Himself is Jess Kidd’s debut novel, and it clearly identifies her as a rising star in the literary world. Ms. Kidd’s lyrical writing insists the words be heard with an Irish lilt in your mind. The story is told in a third person narrative, and the storyline alternates between two time periods. This allows the reader a little more insight into the mystery than the characters have. It also adds more intensity to the sense of foreboding as the story progresses.
Perfectly paced and loaded with charming and quirky characters, Himself is engaging and enchanting even with the constant sense of dread. The dead are equally important characters as the living in this tale. They are ever-present, and some provide clues to the secrets of the seemingly bucolic and boring small village, and the village of Mulderrig has plenty of dark secrets to hide.
Main character, Mahoney, has returned to his home town to follow up on the mysterious note given to him after leaving a Dublin orphanage. He wants answers to the questions of why he was given up and where his mother is currently. Mahoney is plagued—or graced—with the ability to see the dead, so on his first walk into town, he is greeted by both living and spectral characters. Two of the most interesting townsfolks are Mrs. Cauley and Bridget Doosey. Both women had met Orla—Mahoney’s mother, and both had long questioned her disappearance. The three form a formidable and tenacious team. Their efforts to determine Orla’s fate stir up all sorts of emotions as well as supernatural spirits and happenings.
From start to finish the story is eerie, suspenseful and yet, hopeful. I had very specific hopes for how the story would unfold. Some of those hopes were realized and many were dashed, and isn’t that so much like real life? You can’t always predict the end, you certain don’t always get what you want throughout the journey, but things get sorted out in a fashion. The story zenith is shocking and frightening; I was left fearing the worst possible outcomes for all involved. It was a very good fright! Himself is the perfect blend of folklore, ghost story, and murder mystery, with the tiniest pinch of romance thrown in the mix. It is a fantastic tale of what is and what could have been that I highly recommend.
HIMSELF by Jess Kidd
Atria Hardcover | ISBN: 9781501145179| On sale: March 14, 2017 | 384 pages | $26.00
eBook: Atria | ISBN: 9781501145193| On sale: March 14, 2017 | 384 pages | $10.99
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jess Kidd spent time in Ireland as a child, and has been returning ever since. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s University, where she wrote her dissertation on the melding of genres in crime fiction. Jess loves tea, bees, dogs, writing about ghosts, and smiling at strangers in moderation. She lives in London with her daughter, and plans on moving back to the west coast of Ireland soon.