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Things in Jars Jess Kidd shifts direction in her 3rd novel setting it in Victorian times with its inherent brutality and inhumanity teeming with villains murderers the arrogance of killing medics and ruthless amoral gentlemen anatomy collectors hungry for what should not be alive There are Things in Jars with their ability to disturb the natural order of things life and death ashes to ashes time in supension pickling yesterday holding eternity in a jar Into this latest historical novel Kidd brings her trademark elements Irish folklore superstitions ghosts the eccentric her stellar female characters with her standout lyrical prose that enchants and enthralls It is 1863 and London is marked by crime disease grime violence stink and penury Addicted to smoking experimental concoctions by Prudhoe in her pipe the red haired Bridie Devine is haunted by her inability to prevent the death of a child in her last case With her now battered reputation it is a surprise when Sir Edmund Berwick hires her to find his kidnapped 6 year old daughter Christobel Only Christobel is no ordinary child with extraordinary abilities playing with memories eyes that see too much and pike's teeth that can wreak serious damage This time Bridie is determined not to fail a child aided by her magnificently gigantic maid Cora endowed with her thick and glossy facial hair and the ghost of the love lorn illustrated Ruby a prizefighter claiming to know Bridie although she is doubtful of this fact In a narrative that goes back and forth in time to reveal Bridie's childhood of coming over from Ireland collecting corpses with Gan and her time as laboratory assistant to Dr John Eames at Albery Hall wearing the clothes of the dead Lydia links poke their heads from Bridie's past to trouble her in her present investigations There are colourful characters galore such as the predatory and sly Mrs Bibby born for bad business with the tooth and claws and the backbone for it and the viciously dangerous and manipulative Gideon In a story that takes in walled in women and children and 'the Winter Mermaid’ there are gruesome murders double dealing and avarice and Bridie's life is endangered as a deadly foe comes back from the dead In the meantime Londoners cower with fear and horror as lost rivers are resurgent battered by never ending biblical rains as the city floodsOnce again Jess Kidd beguiles and charms with her gifts as a storyteller her shift to the Victorian era is a sublime decision as the era positively drips with gothic elements that serve a veritable feast for Kidd's imagination This includes the ravens experimental potions the penchant for curiosities a medical profession that is unhindered by anything remotely ethical and the corrupt 'scientific' anatomy collectors desperate to acuire living anomalies by any means necessary and preserve them in their jars However it is in the mix of the fantastical Irish folklore such as the merrow with the everyday and Kidd's remarkable talents in characterisation that make her novels a joy to read and ensures that her readership will continue to grow This is compulsive and magical reading fare such infernally dark matter but shot through with light by Bridie Cora Ruby and Inspector Valentine Rose I cannot describe how keen I am to get my hands on the next book Kidd writes So what is left to say? Just the small matter of this book coming highly recommended Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC ‘’Below her streets and lanes factories and workhouses parks and prisons ground houses and tenements roofs chimneys and treetops And the winding sometimes shining Thames the sky’s own dirty mirror The raven leaves the river behind and charts a path to a chapel on a hill with a spire and a clock tower She circles the chapel and lands on the roof with a shuffling of wings She pecks at brickwork at lichen at moth casts at nothing She sidles up to a gargoyle and runs her beak affectionately around his eyes nudging scooping’’ Bridie Devine is a young Irishwoman not the flinching kind who works as a detective aided by her faithful housekeeper Cora and offering an often exasperating help to Inspector Rose Brightest than the blazing flame determined and dedicated she is called to investigate the disappearance of Christabel A child that has the power to enter your conscience just by looking at you with eyes that change colours Bridie enters a world of illegal medical research anatomists and legends and faces the darkest aspects of her childhood aided by a mysterious rugged man with a top hat who happens to bedeadWhat follows is my personal blabbering full of adoration for London Gothic atmosphere mermaids and the intention to build a bookcase shrine to properly worship Jess Kidd’s extraordinary talent Ye have been warned ‘’The woman is made of boot polish and pipe smoke clean cloth and the north wind And as for the dead man walking behind her well he means no harm’’ London is the central character It comes alive through the pages I don’t know Jess Kidd has a supernatural gift I don’t know how else to explain her ability to hypnotize the reader She has created an elaborate time machine to transport us to London during the 1860s We walk and see and smell and listen It couldn’t be ‘’real’’ than that The multicultural neighborhoods of the capital the dreadful orphanages vividly described by Dickens Trollope and Thackeray the ever present threat of cholera the mysterious nights the penny dreadfuls' scenery And most importantly Old Father Thames stands witness to a city that retains so many secrets so many horrors and so much beauty The marvelous way in which Kidd leads the readers in the streets and alleys of the city reminded me of Michel Faber’s masterpiece The Crimson Petal and the WhiteI mean read these paragraphs ‘’The metropolis isn’t sleeping not really For every Londoner in bed there are ten awake and up to no good on the fly on the loose on the tiles The moon knows; she sees all Tonight she’s our guide for it’s late and every self respecting raven will be perched in her own black feathered embrace Let the corvid sleep The moon sees the beauty and cruelty of London her whores and drunks saints and murderers thieves and lovers and fighters The moon sees every black alley and yard scrubland and marsh’’ ‘’Coming up from beneath London’s streets another new sound a tumultuous rushing The ancient rivers of London newly awaken and gathering force now erupt Flooding lane and street drowning basement dwelling families and overwhelming cesspits Then there is the rain Great drops of the stuff a constant patter on every window and shutter tin can and bucket And the Thames keeps rising’’ And then the Gothic elements are used to perfection There are traces of witchcraft and potential hauntings Strange things in jars the circus world with its peculiars Anatomists struggling to learn and to deceive Stories of mermaids from Ireland Holland and France The presence of the merrow the evil mermaid a figure we don’t often witness in Literature Pigeons and seagulls form common imagery throughout the novel creating a sense of unrest and eerie commotion There is a tale within the tale and the effect is astonishing it will give you nightmares There’s even a reference to Herne the Hunter a legendary British Folklore figureAnd the characters? Nevermind the perfect prose the beautiful dialogue the astonishing imagery BridieJesus Christ I could highlight every sentence she utters she is my new spirit animal From beloved Wicklow Sassy and ferocious with an acute sense of irony indifferent to all norms and rules How can I not adore her? Cora loyal fierce honest and sensitive And RubyRuby stands eual to Himself’s Mahony in terms of charm level all handsome and valiant and electrifying Bridie and Ruby are one of the best most uniue most perfect I could go on forever couples you’ll ever encounter in a novelIs this the best Jess Kidd novel yet? I think so I adore all three but this one truly captured my heart put it in a chest and hid the key In a jar When perfect writing outstanding atmosphere and sheer literary Art come together the result is a masterpiece like Things In JarsAlso Jess Kidd why are you so perfect? ‘’Bridie walks between the headstones the crosses the covered urns the plump marble pillows inviting everlasting slumber Stone angels perch on all four corners of her tomb wings folded and faces impassive they are giving nothing away’’ My reviews can also be found on “Here is time held in suspension Yesterday pickled Eternity in a jar” In Things in Jars A 7 foot tall bearded parlor maid mythical sea monsters a ghost and a winter mermaid are all brought together by a female pipe smoking detective in Victorian London to solve the kidnapping of a mysterious child When a child with supposed supernatural powers is kidnapped Detective Bridie Devine is commissioned to find her Bridie's sleuthing abilities lead her into the dark underbelly of nineteenth century London where she encounters a criminal element obsessed with possessing the world’s oddities Dead or alive there is a price on the head of those who are different and don't fit societal normsPart mystery part social commentary part fairy tale Things in Jars had me completely enthralled Jess Kidd encompasses all of the strange eccentricities of the Victorians In Bridie Ruby a dead boxer and Cora a 7 foot tall parlor maid she creates fascinating and multi dimensional characters I hope to see them again in a future novel Kidd seamlessly weaves together a story filled with magic strong women and those who long to possess those who are different I LOVED loved loved every minute of this book It is strange eccentric and wonderfully weird This is definitely one of the best books I have read in 2019I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review “There are things in jars”Note For optimal effect the above uote should be read in a whispery uivery British accented voiceOh yes There are many many things in jars between the pages of Jess Kidd’s aptly titled novel and they are all so brilliantly and twistedly delightfulBridie Devine “pipe smoking detective extraordinaire” has just accepted uite the unusual case Christabel Berwick the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick has been kidnapped right out from under the Baronet’s nose Rud to possess extraordinary mythical powers it appears that Christabel may have attracted the unfortunate attention of those who specialize in the collection of peculiarities Urged on by the fatherly desperation of Sir Berwick Bridie takes to the streets of Victorian London determined to locate the young girl Fortunately Bridie has help from two unusual allies – Cora Bridie’s seven foot tall giantess housemaid and Ruby a tattooed ghost from Bridie’s past Together the eccentric threesome must race against time to save Christabel from the clutches of those who wish to add one prized possession to their cabinets of curiositiesEarlier this year I had the profound pleasure of reading Kidd’s debut novel Himself and I fell utterly in love with her writing I adored the lovely mix of mystery and magical realism of the story; I was amazed by how skillfully the narrative was weaved I discovered that Kidd’s writing is breathtakingly beautifulSince then I have eagerly awaited my opportunity to read Things in Jars My excitement and anticipation for this book have been difficult to contain I have known without doubt that Kidd would not disappoint I have known I would love every magnificent word of it And correct I was Things in Jars is captivating It is a clever wonderfully creative and mesmerizing gothic mystery Masterfully blending magical realism and Irish folklore with the paranormal Kidd tells a tale that is both uniue and fantastical I found myself completely under Kidd’s spell wholly immersed in the enchantment of the storyKidd’s writing has a very whimsical air to it In my review of Himself I even went so far as to compare her to Neil Gaiman – and I still fully stand behind that assessment Her prose is gorgeously lyrical and elegantly readable All major and minor characters are fully developed likable and memorable I dare you to not love Bridie Cora and Ruby I double dare you even Kidd establishes setting like no other – you can literally see hear feel taste and smell Victorian London in all its dreary dirty glory Although I do think at times she gets a bit overly descriptive of certain scenes to the point where the reader is dropped out of the story for a short period due to the large influx of information But a minor complaint She sets a very wry witty tone to the narrative and she has such a knack for infusing warmth and humor into what is indeed an extremely dark storyAah yes the darkness Be forewarned Things in Jars is not for the faint of heart It is brutal and gruesome It is bloody and gritty There are scenes of disturbing animal cruelty and graphic surgical procedures There is violence against women One violent scene against a female character I found particularly bothersome because it seemed a bit gratuitous and unnecessary to the story I could’ve done without it To be certain Things in Jars is not without its horrors And know that these horrors make for sueamish moments of readingBut to Kidd’s credit she somehow manages to deftly offset all that darkness with light Again her writing is so charming and funny and she brings such whimsy to the story that it’s almost as if she masks or cloaks the gruesomeness Or sort of smudges the edges of the blackness to where it all becomes a bit fuzzy Or gently nudges the reader’s focus towards the light rather than the dark It’s uite remarkable the perfect balancing act she achieves between such a stark dichotomyAnd that melding of dark and light is part of what makes Things in Jars such a special read Mystery lovers magical realism lovers just plain ol’ good fiction lovers – do not miss this one I wholeheartedly recommend it and hope that this will not be our first and only adventure with Bridie DevineMay there be many to come A cloth covers the jar that Bridie took from the bookcase in the nursery and Ruby is thankful for this For the contents have the ability to rearrange even a dead man’s sense of reality As with all terrible wondrous sights there is a jolt of shock then a hypnotic fascination then the uneasy ueasiness then the whole thing starts again; the desire to look and the desire never to have looked in the first place 1860s London the prime of the Victorian age About fifteen years before Sherlock Holmes begins using his talents to suss truth from mystery Bridie applies her peculiar talents to helping the police in cases of an unusual nature A sign outside her door announces Mrs DevineDomestic InvestigationsMinor surgery Esp Boils Warts ExtractionsDiscretion Assured but she is known mostly for her ability to discern the cause of death when simple observation will not suffice She would do as well with a sign that says Investigator of the Bizarre Her Scotland Yard contact and sometime employer is one Inspector Valentine Rose and business is brisk London is awash with the freshly murdered Bodies appear hourly blooming in doorways with their throats cut prone in alleyways with the head knocked in Half burnt in hearths and garroted in garrets folded into trunks or bobbing about in the Thames great bloated shoals of them She is called on to look into inexplicable deaths primarily among the flotsam of society London has been undergoing the installation of a world class sewer system and diggings have turned up some extremely cold cases The latest calls her to a crypt in Highgate Chapel A mother and child have been unearthed the child having significant bodily abnormalities Around the same time a dodgy seeming doctor comes a calling seeking her assistance on behalf of his patron Sir Edmund Athestan Berwick Seems the baronet’s daughter has been kidnapped Going to the police is not really an option And the game is afoot Any chance the two cases are linked? Jess Kidd image from MetroThe purloined child Christabel has some peculiarities of her own The man looking up hesitates and the child bites him a nip of surprising sharpness He pulls his hand away in surprise and sees a line of puncture holes small but deepThe man stands dazed flexing his hand Red lines track from palm to wrist to elbow the teeth marks turn mulberry then blackWhat kind of child bites like this like a rat? He imagines her venom—he feels it—coursing through him A blistering poison spreads a sudden fire burning itself out as it travelsAll the time the creature watches him her eyes darkening—a trick of lamplight surelyHe would scream if he could but he can only reach out He lies gasping like a landed fish Poor unfortunate soul Image from The TimesWith Sherlockian insight a talent for disguises and lots of shoe leather Bridie sets about following leads and examining clues trying to get to the bottom of a case that is unusually fishy Like that later consulting detective Bridie smokes a pipe which is often enlivened by substances other than pure tobacco things with names such as Mystery Caravan or Fairground Riot concocted by Dr Rumhold Fortitude Prudhoe a close friend She shares her uarters with a particularly helpful assistant the seven foot tall Cora Butter who asks than once whether Bridie would like this or that person held upside down The medical bag Bridie totes is her own The other freuent companion in her investigations is a dead man While on the job at Highgate Chapel he first appeared to her in the attached graveyard notable not only for his transparency but for his indecorous attire Ruby Doyle had been a renowned boxer in his day and appears in shorts shirtless sporting a cocked top hat an impressive handlebar moustache muscles aplenty and a considerable number of tattoos with peculiarities all their own He seems to know Bridie uite well One of the mysteries of the book is why she does not seem to remember him particularly as she finds him very very attractive Tom Hardy add a handlebar moustache top hat and some tats and Kidd sees him as Ruby The supporting cast is a delight Lee refers to those who work with her as Bridie’s Victorian A team Beyond those noted above there is a criminal circus owner with a weakness for strong women psycho killers of both the male and female persuasion a misshapen sniveling abettor who could have snuck out of a Dickens novel to put some time in here an honorable street urchin orphans a mysterious woman who may be haunting the baronet and plenty The story is told in two timelines Bridie investigates the taking of Christabel in 1863 and we get looks back into Bridie’s childhood from 1837 to 1843 the earlier period explaining much of what is to come twenty years later And explaining how Bridie came to have the skills she possesses Bridie was born in Ireland like the author but I expect Jess Lee’s transition to life in London was a tad less fraught Image from Foodiggitycom Among other things Kidd is interested in presenting a realistic portrait of the period Iwanted to give a basis of a real gritty accurate portrayal of Victorian London Visually she offers panoramic looks through the dark eyes of ravens and Bridie’s pedestrian peregrinations particularly through less than posh parts of the city She offers a particularly effective olfactory perspective as well Breathe in—but not too deeply Follow the fulsome fumes from the tanners and the reek from the brewery butterscotch rotten drifting across Seven Dials Keep on past the mothballs and the cheap tailor’s and turn left at the singed silk of the maddened hatter Just beyond you’ll detect the unwashed crotch of the overworked prostitute and the Christian sweat of the charwoman On every inhale a shifting scale of onions and scalded milk chrysanthemums and spiced apple broiled meat and wet straw and the sudden stench of the Thames as the wind changes direction and blows up the knotted backstreets Above all you may notice the rich and sickening chorus of shit She was greatly influenced by journalist William Mayhew’s encyclopedic 1851 book London Labour and the London Poor There is a look at the jailhouse which appears to be guarded by particularly corrupt versions of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Toss in or dig up some resurrectionists too Part of the Victorian culture was a craze for collecting exotic things One story that fed her interest was that of The Irish Giant an exceptionally tall gent 7’7” who became the talk of London for a brief time But after his early demise and despite his specific instructions to the contrary his remains were obtained by a collector and put on display There is a link to this tale in EXTRA STUFFImage from TraveldarklycomLee is also interested in Irish folklore and partakes of that richly for the core element of the story The incorporation of this element brings with it the main fantasy strand of the novel One look at the cover of the book will inform you that there be mermaids or something akin here Lee adds additional magical elements as such critters appear here to have considerable power to influence the world about them and specific powers that we would never associate with The Little Mermaid although considering the things we see in jars we might have to reconsider the implications of the song Part of Your World Look at this stuff Isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete? Wouldn't you think I'm the girlThe girl who has ev'rything?Look at this troveTreasures untoldHow many wonders can one cavern hold?Lookin' around here you'd thinkSure she's got everythingHmmmmmm Image from KlykercomThere is considerable humor in Things in Jars Her spectacularly ugly bonnet is curled up before the fire bristling with feathers She refused to give it up into the hands of the butler Not that the butler was overeager to take it If it comes alive Sir Edmund thinks he will do for it with the poker My particular LOL favorite is the prayer young Bridie offers up at bedtime God grant eternal rest to Mammy Daddy James John Theresa Margaret Ellen and little baby Owen God grant that bastard Paddy Fadden a kick up his hole and severe death to him and his gang of a slow and terrible variety How could you not absolutely love such a child? The disappointments in Things in Jars were few I wish there had been provision of clues throughout the book about what the deal was with Ruby I was ok with the explanation but it needed a better support structure A bit background on Cora would have been welcome One actual gripe was a scene in which Bridie falls asleep while on the job No way would this have happened Booo Almost all the violence occurs off stage In addition to one event described in a uote from the book in the review we are shown the beginning of one attack by a ruffian on a lady Tender souls might turn away That’s really about it for such things Image from NickcooknetBut the delights in Things in Jars could fill a wing of the British Museum Bridie is a delicious lead tough as nails without being impervious bright with a solid background that explains how she knows what she knows She is a lot of fun to follow The Holmesian parallels are a treat The supporting cast is like a three ring circus in the best possible way diverse interesting and fun to watch both the light and the dark We feel the fear when appropriate and see Bridie’s affection for Ruby grow A taste of Irish folklore is both creepy and educational and Lee’s portrait of 19th century London offers an exceptionally immersive experience You really get a feel and smell of being there A real world mystery with fabulous elements of fantasy In short Things in Jars is an absolute delight For the hours you are reading this book you will be part of that worldReview posted – January 17 2020Publication date – February 4 2020I received an ARE of this book from Atria in return for some specimens I have been keeping in a special place in the lab basement for some years They promised to return them after a thorough examination EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal Twitter Goodreads Instagram and FB pagesInterviews Savidge Reads Sinister Supernatural Shenanigans with Jess Kidd by Simon Savidge Stitcher S3E4 – Chatting with Jess Kidd audio – 12912 – by Tim Clare – you can safely begin at about 4600 for a focus on Jars Well not an interview really but a piece Kidd wrote for LitHub on her favorite ghost stories Books That Blur the Lines Between Living and DeadItems of Interest Waterstones A look at the Operating Theater Kidd gives a tour Writing ie On Writing Things in Jars by Jess Kidd Gutenberg London Labour and the London Poor 1851 by William Mayhew Joseph Bazalgette engineer of the massive sewer works in London Otherworldly Oracle Mermen Legends – a fun bit of fluff Wikipedia The Irish Giant 45 STARS A dark bizarre and fanciful world  Imaginative storytelling that was menacing detailed and plotted to perfectionI was uickly captivated by the gothic setting and the missing child investigation The female detective Birdie Devine specializes in domestic investigations and minor surgery She was a fantastic character that brought humor and humanity to the taleThe supernatural elements and fairytale esue cast of characters kept me glued to the pages and immersed in their uest for the Winter Mermaid The images of snails scales and those things in jars were mesmerizing I also learned about merrows which both fascinated and terrified me A splash of magical realism some wicked happenings and plenty of side characters to lovehate made this one uite a fantastical journeyThanks to NG and the pub for my review copy OUT Feb 2020  25275 rounded upBridie Devine is a female detective in Victorian London One day she is approached to investigate the case of a missing girl Christabel the secret child of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick She is reported to have supernatural powers Bridie is hot on the case; she lost her last missing child and is determined to save this one Her search for the girls is aided by her seven foot tall housemaid and a tattoo covered ghost Sounds interesting right? Well it wasbut there is a big BUT comingit didn't work that well for me Add me to the outlier group I found this to be okay at best I am usually able to suspend disbelief and enjoy books with ghosts supernatural elements and such This book was an odd one and hard for me to rate I never wanted to stop reading it and in fact I was compelled to keep reading to find out what was going to happen and mainly to find out if Bridie would learn how if she knew RubySo how does one rate a book which is oddly compelling atmospheric weird with interestingly strange characters with a story line which fails to wow you I'm going with three stars This book is imaginative poetic at times compelling and I'm going with strange again I did enjoy Bridie’s character and enjoyed her interactions with Ruby I enjoyed Cora as well But the story itself failed to wow me Can’t uite put my finger out it except to say that we all can’t love the same books and some books work for us while others do not This is right there in the middle for me Others are enjoying this than I did and I encourage you to seek out their reviews as wellThank you to Atria books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review All the thoughts and opinions are my ownThis was a Traveling FriendsSisters Buddy Read Original cover for ASIN# B07J1WLZRDIn 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 SpeculationBridie 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 uite 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 My first five star read of 2020From the first sentence you know this book is going to be different “As pale as a grave grub she’s an eyeful” The writing is just gorgeous in that Victorian Dickensian fashion Think Dickens matched with Grimms Fairy Tales Or Dickens if he was smoking hashish or one of Prudhoe’s blends and into Irish folktales I loved the characters Bridie part sleuth part doctor untrained Cora her seven foot maid with a beautiful baritone voice and Ruby a dead boxer with living tattoos London is a character in its own right Yes there is a supernatural element here of which I usually am not a fan But Kidd has managed to create a world so believable that I swallowed it hook line and sinker There’s a sly sense of humor here mostly in the descriptions While the theme of the book is dark it’s just so darn entertaining The story has Bridie being hired to find the kidnapped daughter of a baronet But not just any daughter this daughter has special characteristics We are led into a world filled with grave robbers anatomists collectors of all things odd and uniue Kudos to Kidd for getting it all right I haven’t read her prior books but I’m now inspired to seek them out A huge thanks to netgalley and Atria books for an advance copy of this book But a mermaid has no tears and therefore she suffers so much —Hans Christian Andersen The Little MermaidI'm a huge fan of Jess Kidd's exuisite playful writing and KERPOW what a start Her vivid prologue was one of the finest things I've read in a long long time Gadzooks That alone was worth the entrance fee The book is set in a Victorian London that Dickens might have portrayed one which is theatrically grotesue and wonderfully atmospheric whose slums are as lively as a blanket full of lice Our heroine is special detective Bridie Devine a dynamic pipe smoking woman of around thirty years of age She wears the ugliest bonnet in Christendom and can drink most men under the tableMs Devine womankind’s answer to Sherlock Holmes has a psychic talent for reading corpses that have met with inexplicable deaths The author describes her as being a 'woman made from boot polish and pipe smoke' Kidd's female characters are often gloriously independent which I loveDevine's latest case is the kidnapping of Baronet's daughter Christabel Berwick a pike toothed child who smells of the sea and is kept shackled and hidden in a locked nursery The magical realism herein is precisely as it should be – dark imaginative irreverent and wryly amusing To explain this thrillermystery any further would be to divulge its silty slippery secrets It rather frustrates me that certain ham handed authors find themselves on Booker shortlists when über talented Jess Kidd can write their socks off Mind you that said I'm not altogether sure why she felt the need to hyphenate words that shouldn’t be hyphenated church yard; crest fallen; dumb founded; gas lights Perhaps she was going for a Victorian style of writing? Disappointingly the story began to lose its cut and thrust in the middle stages I was even gulp bored for several chapters The treacherous ocean had become a gentle millpond and I wanted Ah but wonderful Jess Kidd redeems herself with a poignant scene at the book's dénouement; a passage so pitiful so heroic that the scales on the back of my neck stood on end and my gills began to gasp Bravo Jess I sueaked clapping my fins together Best supporting character awards go to two protags; one living one dead Cora Butter Bridie's seven foot tall housemaid who is fiercely loyal and commendably noble; and to Ruby Doyle a top hatted prizefighter whose sliding tattoos have a mind of their ownAs ever Jess Kidd's lyrical prose is a joy to behold and she employs an opulence of literary devices to good effect personification; aphorisms; allusion and zoomorphism to name but a few All told I liked this dark exuberant whimsical extravaganza very much Indomitable Bridie Devine is a mesmerising character who will linger in your mind long after the final page is turned Nevertheless I enjoyed this author's previous offerings Four stars bumped up to five because Jess Kidd has ninja writing skillz

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