Jess Kidd comes to the blog with a gothic mystery story, set in Victorian London with
Things in Jars
A clever mix of fact, history, fantasy and fairy tale, Kidd’s Bridie is a formidable and wonderful character with a peculiar nose for the truth, even when it leads her in dangerous directions. A bit dark and closed in, the setting of the backstreets and alleyways of Victorian London come alive with shadows and scares, a chatty ghost, several people and secrets better hidden from the light of day and a series of curious collectors who will stop at nearly nothing to obtain the prize, a young girl, secret daughter of a titled man, rumored to have paranormal powers. Now, the Victorians were ‘enamored’ of all things post-death – with funerial masks, locks of hair, a belief in spirits and ghosts, and a rather macabre sense of what is desirable. So it was easy to understand the collectors and their fascination with the child, and Bridie is just the person to find / rescue the child. She’s got a ton of her own secrets too, many that she’d rather not share, but she’s also not alone in this dangerous quest to find the child.
There’s a solid sense of the Victorian’s reveling in the ‘gory details’ and the bizarre oddities that surround many of the moments: from strange collections that vary from simply odd to actually disturbing, to her ‘helpmates’ in a very tall housemaid with a beard, a ghost with tattoos and a rather morose attitude and more. Bridie herself is not ‘free’ of some quirks – from smoking a pipe to carrying a dagger strapped to her thigh – and her willingness to accept all things not “normal” in most Londoner’s lives, she’s also clever, quick, and matter of fact, all which hide a spine of steel, a willingness to believe in the fantastical, and the determination to solve the case.
It’s hard to not spoil this story – so I’ll simply say that engaging, engrossing and utterly delightful descriptions provided vivid imagery and the quirky and unusual characters added a levity that was badly needed with the tone and darkness. This is a story, and a character in Bridie, that you can easily see being the topic of many a story round a few pints in a dimly lit pub, where all ears are tuned to the storyteller and intakes of breath happen as if the whole room is gasping for air, or letting out a held breath. The prose is cleverly wrought and brings a familiarity to the read, even as this is unlike anything else I have read that was called “gothic”. A lovely story and best read when you have nothing else to do for a few hours – it’s not going to let you go to accomplish anything!
Title: Things in Jars
Author: Jess Kidd
Genre: British, Dark-theme, Ghosts, Gothic, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Humor elements, Mystery Elements, Myth, Paranormal, Setting: Britain, Victorian, Women Sleuths
Published on: 4 February, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 29 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
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—perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.
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 Jars is 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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.