No book in 2020 has captured my attention and my imagination like this work of historical fiction. Jess Kidd’s story took me back through time and challenged my reality in a book I simply could not put down.
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. from Goodreads.
I’m struggling a bit to discuss this book. Every time I try to bring some coherent thought to my opinions I am left babbling over and over again, “It was so good. So, so sooooooooo good.” I have attempted (repeatedly) to shake my head to clear my thoughts but I keep returning to the same refrain. So, forgive me. I’m going to try…
It is London, 1863, and Mrs. Bridget Devine’s occupation is as mysterious as the plaque that hangs near her front door. It reads,
Minor Surgery (Esp. Boils, Warts, Extractions)
But, before we even gain a glimpse of Bridie’s home and her housekeeper Cora, the only seven-foot-tall housemaid in London, we have already followed Bridie through the graveyard, stumbled across the ghost of an incredibly attractive boxer, and watched as she investigated a long dead skeleton of a mother and a not quite human baby. All this before page 30.
I mean, honestly. This book!
The mystery presented to Bridie is that of a missing child. An odd missing child whose only friend doesn’t want her found. A little girl who doesn’t talk and doesn’t truly exist, not even in her own home. But Bridie is not one to give up.
Less mysterious but absolutely swoon-worthy is Rudy, the ghost who has attached himself to Bridie. I’m not sure what caused my infatuation with this character. Meh, that’s a lie. I definitely appreciated how protective and simultaneously proud of Bridie he was throughout the story. In addition, his loving teasing that she should remember him had me absolutely gasping to know what their history might have been. The cherry on top of this delightful concoction is his jealousy over her friendship with Inspector Rose. Ah Rudy….
It would be remiss of me to not mention that this Victorian tale is steeped in the vernacular of the age. I finally put a post-it note in the cover of the book so I could write down words I didn’t know instead of breaking the rhythm of the story to look things up. Mind you, not a regular post-it. I needed a lined double-sized one. Jess Kidd was not messing around with her regurgitation of life in London during the Victorian Era, straight down to the strange names for fruit and vegetable sellers in the streets (a costermonger, just so you know). It is a lot but absolutely worth the effort.
Once I caught the pace and the rhythm I shut myself away from the world in the smallest room in my home in order to give this book my full attention. I haven’t been this compelled to finish a book since I was a child reading in my closet at night. I am obsessed with this story. It is just so sooooo good. Darn it, I tried!
Tell me, please!
What’s the last book that you were obsessed with like this?