I loved Himself for those reasons and more, but liked Mr. Flood's Last Resort (also titled The Hoarder) less. Kidd's characters, however, are wonderful even when the plot is a little iffy.
Her latest book, Things in Jars--especially with Kidd's amazing prose--is a mystery, a fairy tale, a nightmare, magical realism, a ghost story, social commentary, a mysterious amalgamation of genres that does not fit any one category.
Set in 1863, Bridie Devine, private investigator with a connection to the police, smokes her pipe on her way to inspect a crypt with the skeleton remains of a mother and child...and finds the transparent figure of former boxer Ruby Doyle lounging on his grave. She doesn't believe in ghosts, yet the marvelously tattooed Ruby Doyle (The Decorated Doyle), definitely dead and transparent, seems to know her. And so the story begins.
Ruby Doyle, the decorated pugilist whose tattoos move and react to situations, becomes Bridie's (initially) unwanted partner. Doyle knows Bridie, but Bridie cannot remember ever knowing Doyle. He accompanies her home and on her adventures, waiting for Bridie to remember him and their connection, and Bridie's feelings for Ruby Doyle confuse her as she begins to appreciate his company.
The main story line begins when Bridie is engaged to find the kidnapped daughter of a baronet. Christabel Berwick, a strange six-year-old with unusual powers and strange needle-like teeth, is a mystery in and of herself. Is Christabel the embodiment of the Irish myth of the merrow? Bridie suspects a possible reason for the little girl's kidnapping...and she doesn't like it at all.
Interspersing chapters reveal more of Bridie's past and diverge to examine the activities of other characters. Each character is the delightful result of descriptions amplified in the style of Dickens as in this description of Cridge, the curate:
"He is a young man with an unfavorable look about him. Slight of stature and large of head, with light-brown hair that cleaves thinly to an ample cranium with bumps and contours enough to astound even a practiced phrenologist. His complexion is wan and floury as an overcooked potato and his mouth was made for sneering."Moving from past to present and back again, threads that are begun in the past are gradually woven into the present. Aside from such wonderful characters as Bridie herself, we meet Ruby Doyle, Cora (Bridie's seven foot tall housemaid), Bad Dorcas, the Prudhoes, Valentine Rose, and wicked Gideon Eames. London becomes both setting and character in this fantastical adventure.
It is difficult not to become enchanted by Kidd's prose, although it occasionally interrupts the plot. :)
Read in November; blog review scheduled for Jan. 19, 2020.
?Historical Mystery/Fantasy? Feb. 4, 2020. Print length: 384 pages.