Review: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery.

Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jarsis a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.

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My Thoughts:

Jess Kidd brings her signature style to Things in Jars.  Her lyrical prose is delightfully descriptive.  She perfectly blends folklore, ghosts and history into her story of a quirky Irish investigator in Victorian London.

Ms. Kidd’s writing drew me in from the start.  I was absolutely enchanted by her characters.  The weird and wry Bridie Devine, her Amazonian housekeeper, Cora, and Rudy, the ghost who follows Bridie home and devotedly helps her through her latest investigation.  They are a motley crew of misfits with big hearts and brave souls.

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a mermaid tale, but my enchantment with Ms. Kidd’s latest novel goes beyond that.  The grim depiction of the underbelly of London is reminiscent of Dickens.  Her scene setting and characterizations are perfect. Things in Jars is told in dual time periods; in the 1860s, readers follow Bridie’s fantastical investigation of a missing child with <i>singular traits</i>, and in the 1840s we learn of young orphaned Bridget and what motivates her in present day.

Chief amongst the antagonists are Gideon Eames and the elusive Mrs. Bibby.  These characters are diabolical; they create a feeling of dread throughout the story.  Ms. Kidd brilliantly weaves their stories into that of Bridie’s, leaving her readers with a delicious, gothic tale.  Things in Jars is a dark, atmospheric mystery filled with eccentric and mythical characters.

 

About the Author: Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from county Mayo and has been praised for her unique fictional voice. Her debut, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016. She won the Costa Short Story Award the same year. Her second novel, The Hoarder, published as Mr. Flood’s Last Resort in the U.S. and Canada was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club Picks. Her latest book, the Victorian detective tale Things in Jars, has been released to critical acclaim. Jess’s work has been described as ‘Gabriel García Márquez meets The Pogues.’

 

 

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