Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A wondrous mixture of all those elements which make the Victorian era so attractive and yet so alien to modern minds – the down-to-earth, the credulous, the strange and possibly even the paranormal, all wrapped up tight in a detective story. Highly original.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: April 2019
Publisher: Canongate Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781786893765

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A child has gone missing. The detective asked to take on the case is still struggling with the shame and frustration left by a previous case, where the child was not found in time. Hardly original themes for a private eye thriller. And yet . . . take another look. This detective is a woman, and the setting is Victorian London, with all the rich and colourful paradoxes of that era: technical and scientific progress jostling for space beside superstition and a fascination with the bizarre and the downright hideous. And before you're more than a couple of pages in, you realise just how much more unusual our heroine is than you expected. Bridie Devine may dress in half-mourning, with a widow's cap and stout, shiny boots, but the tobacco she smokes in her pipe (my dear, what an utterly fast thing for a lady to do!) is mixed with a nugget of something, well, let's say recreational, created by her chemist friend Prudhoe. The fact that it's actually meant to cure bronchial problems is by the by. Her housemaid, being seven foot tall, is also somewhat remarkable. And then, of course, there's the ghost. Ruby Doyle, world famous tattooed boxer (deceased) accompanies Bridie all through her investigation, and it's clear he has a soft spot for the determined young woman. If he really exists, that is.

Bridie's new case involves a six-year-old girl, the offspring of a baronet, who has been locked up and kept secret for her whole life – only four people know about her. And now she and her nursemaid have gone missing. Sir Edmund wants her found without any word of her existence reaching the outside world. Bridie's first task, in the face of the reluctance in those in the know to tell her, is to discover exactly what makes the child so worthy of fear and shame. The truth, and Bridie's pursuit of it, offer the reader a thrilling tale full of colour, adventure and a little humour, and a portrayal of a society unclear where humanity ends and disgust begins. Bridie is a likeable protagonist, stalwart, brave and honest, and the lyrical tone of the writing makes of this book an uncommon yet thoroughly enjoyable story. Readers will hope fervently that Ms Kidd finds further off-beat cases for Bridie to investigate.

It almost goes without saying that if you're thinking about Victorian detectives, eerie settings and apparently inexplicable events, the name of Sherlock Holmes will come to mind – and more specifically, that masterpiece of the genre, The Hound of the Baskervilles. In case you don't have a copy to hand, Bookbag recommends you turn to Sherlock: The Essential Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which contains that adventure and, generously, another ten tales of the great man's exploits. And for something written more recently, but still imbued with Gothic mystery and Victorian hypocrisy, try The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola – superstition, murky desires and brooding landscapes. What more could you want on a dark and chilly night by the fire?

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Buy Things in Jars by Jess Kidd at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Things in Jars by Jess Kidd at


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