book reviews

‘Things In Jars’ by Jess Kidd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.

Things In Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.

Thank you to NetGalley, Canongate Books and Jess Kidd for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

This mesmerising novel took me completely by surprise. Ms Kidd is a remarkable writer who has woven an emotive and sorrowful tale alongside one full of mystery, charm and suspense.

It begins with a mysterious and chilling prologue that details Christabel Berwick’s abduction. A child who is beautiful yet repulsive. and who evokes strange feelings and fear in those who come into contact with her. All her short life she has been hidden away and constrained, seeing the stars for the first time as she’s taken from her Father’s house that night.

Bridie Devine, a renowned female detective in an era where it was still seen as a job for men. She is asked to take on an urgent case: the kidnapping of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick’s six-year-old daughter Christabel who was taken the night before. The baronet is thought to be childless and his representative reveals that Christabel was secretly kept in a wing in the house because of her “uniqueness”. Her nurse, who is one of only four people that know the child exists, is also missing. Did she have something to do with the kidnapping or is she another innocent victim in danger?

In an era where curiosities and abnormalities are collected there’s a high price to be found for a unique child and Bridie’s investigation draws her deeper into the murky world of curiosities, abnormalities, greed and corruption. But will she be able to find Christabel before she’s lost to the highest bidder?

Bridie Devine was a fantastic character and protagonist. She is a woman who refuses to conform to the rules and restrictions of the Victorian era and has carved out an independent life for herself doing something she seems to have been born to do. I loved her witt and no nonsense attitude, her love for those deemed unlovable and her determination to help those in need. Her conversations with the ghost of a dead boxer, Ruby, who claims to have known her when he was alive, gave the book some of it’s funniest and most emotional moments. This was a book filled with an array of colourful and interesting characters, along with some evil and despicable ones too. Christabel was a complex and cryptic character: an amalgamation of the beauty and sorrow of the mermaid yet also a terrifying and malevolent creature, and a mix of many opposing traits all inside one little girl. She was brilliantly written and genuinely scared me many times.

I’ve read some great book so far this year but this was by far one of the best. I loved that the language was raw and witty yet poetic and beguiling and the way folklore is combined with crime in a way you don’t hesitate to believe. This was my first book by this author but she’s become an instant favourite. I will definitely be reading what she writes next. Things In Jars is a magnificent, captivating and unforgettable novel that touches your soul. I can’t recommend it enough.

Out April 4th.

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