Things in Jars

Things in Jars

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 ba...

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Title:Things in Jars
Author:Jess Kidd
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Things in Jars Reviews

  • Ova - Excuse My Reading

    So full of emotions to review now. Soon.

  • Sonja Arlow

    4.5 stars

    Jess Kidd is officially one of my favourite authors. She has the ability to mix dark and quirky into a strange but unique blend.

    The story follows Bridie, an anomaly, in an era where women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant at home. She is a self-made detective assisting the local coppers with investigations, especially when there is a dead corpse rotting somewhere.

    Bridie, who favours questionable tobacco at best, cannot always trust what she sees but whether she believes in ghost

    4.5 stars

    Jess Kidd is officially one of my favourite authors. She has the ability to mix dark and quirky into a strange but unique blend.

    The story follows Bridie, an anomaly, in an era where women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant at home. She is a self-made detective assisting the local coppers with investigations, especially when there is a dead corpse rotting somewhere.

    Bridie, who favours questionable tobacco at best, cannot always trust what she sees but whether she believes in ghosts or not, one has chosen to accompany her on her latest quest. Together with her 7-foot-tall housemaid they need to solve the mystery of a missing child, rumoured to have special skills that will drive you mad with memories and drown you on dry land.

    A child linked to the legend of the merrow.

    Her search will bring up events from her own childhood, take a turn at the circus, expose secret medical experiments and lots of disgusting things in jars.

    The story sucks you in and it’s tempting to race through the book but if you slow down a bit you will be rewarded with some wonderful hidden nuggets and turns of phrase.

    All her books are so easy to recommend as they consistently knock it out the park.

  • Paromjit

    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 bring

    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 floods.

    Once 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 acquire 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.

  • Nilufer Ozmekik

    Five stars and a statue goes to best portrayed Victorian London book !

    This is incredible combination of humor, kitsch, folklore with the writer’s talented and never ending imagination.

    We meet one of the most interesting heroines, Bride Devine , a woman detective, wearing a dagger strapped to her thigh, smoking pipe, solving murders by reading corpses and talking with ghosts.

    It seems like one of the heroes , also the part of love triangle is Ruby Doyle, champion boxer who is also dead.

    Mostly

    Five stars and a statue goes to best portrayed Victorian London book !

    This is incredible combination of humor, kitsch, folklore with the writer’s talented and never ending imagination.

    We meet one of the most interesting heroines, Bride Devine , a woman detective, wearing a dagger strapped to her thigh, smoking pipe, solving murders by reading corpses and talking with ghosts.

    It seems like one of the heroes , also the part of love triangle is Ruby Doyle, champion boxer who is also dead.

    Mostly it was frivolous book is written with great sense of humor and creativity. But we have to admit that it is also evil one with gory murder scenes , shocking, cruel, disturbing.

    I enjoyed the poetic descriptions of Victorian London, immaculate writing and rich, layered, perfectly developed characterization.

    So happy to find a gifted writer. Cannot wait to read more books !

  • Kevin Ansbro

    —Hans Christian Andersen,

    I'm a huge fan of Jess Kidd's exquisite, 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 grotesque and wonderfully atmospheric - whose slums are as lively as a blank

    —Hans Christian Andersen,

    I'm a huge fan of Jess Kidd's exquisite, 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 grotesque 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 table.

    Ms 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 love).

    Devine'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 thriller/mystery 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)

    for several chapters. The treacherous ocean had become a gentle millpond and I wanted more.

    Ah, but wonderful Jess Kidd redeems herself with a poignant scene at the book's

    ; 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 squeaked, 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 own.

    As 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 more.

    Four stars, bumped up to five, because Jess Kidd has ninja writing skillz.

  • Phrynne

    is now officially one of my most favourite authors. Three beautiful books in a row with not a fault in any of them. What more to ask for!

    moves us away from the author's usual locations in Ireland and off to London. Of course our main characters are still beautifully Irish and, also of course, one of them is a ghost. Kidd describes Victorian London perfectly with all its horrors and its smells and its poverty among the lower classes.

    Her characters too are all larger than

    is now officially one of my most favourite authors. Three beautiful books in a row with not a fault in any of them. What more to ask for!

    moves us away from the author's usual locations in Ireland and off to London. Of course our main characters are still beautifully Irish and, also of course, one of them is a ghost. Kidd describes Victorian London perfectly with all its horrors and its smells and its poverty among the lower classes.

    Her characters too are all larger than life. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of the time, takes on a case of a stolen child who turns out to be a very unusual child indeed. Helping her in the search is Ruby Doyle, champion boxer, now deceased but not yet resting in peace, and Cora Butter "the only, and most terrifying, seven-foot-tall housemaid in London."

    The story goes into some very dark places but it is also humourous, totally entertaining and very well written. A really excellent and very readable book. I loved it!

  • Amalia Gavea

    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 be...dead.

    What 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…

    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 more ‘’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 White.

    I mean, read these paragraphs…

    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 figure.

    And the characters? Nevermind the perfect prose, the beautiful dialogue, the astonishing imagery. Bridie...Jesus 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 Ruby...Ruby stands equal to Himself’s Mahony in terms of charm level, all handsome and valiant and electrifying. Bridie and Ruby are one of the best, most unique, most perfect (I could go on forever…) couples you’ll ever encounter in a novel.

    Is 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 Jars.

    Also, Jess Kidd, why are you so perfect?

    My reviews can also be found on

  • Sarah-Hope

    When I reached the halfway point in Things in Jars, I deliberately started to ration my reading so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. Now that I'm done reading it, I feel all twitchy hoping for a follow-up soon-soon-soon. Things in Jars is just that good.

    Things in Jars offers a delightful historical fiction/mystery/fantasy melange with characters who are utterly real and whose relationships I found myself caring deeply about. Early on, on "detective" Bridie, who does some work for Scotland Yard e

    When I reached the halfway point in Things in Jars, I deliberately started to ration my reading so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. Now that I'm done reading it, I feel all twitchy hoping for a follow-up soon-soon-soon. Things in Jars is just that good.

    Things in Jars offers a delightful historical fiction/mystery/fantasy melange with characters who are utterly real and whose relationships I found myself caring deeply about. Early on, on "detective" Bridie, who does some work for Scotland Yard examining (but not autopsying) cadavers to determine cause of death, meets Ruby, the ghost of a prize fighter, clad in only bandages, drawers, and top hat with tattoos that move about on his body. He tells Bridie they've met before; she doesn't remember him, but as the story progresses the two become closer, learning to rely on one another.

    There's also the Scotland Yard Detective Rose, who grew up on the streets like Bridie; a seven-foot tall, bearded maid who escaped from a sideshow with Bridie's help; a strange girl, half fish, half human, with the teeth of a pike and a deadly bite. And, even with their fantastic elements, each of these characters comes across as genuine.

    This is the kind of book you can give yourself as a gift and that will stay fresh with repeated readings. I think I'll be starting it all over again early next month.

    I received a free electronic ARC of this title for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

  • Rebecca

    In the autumn of 1863 Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is tasked with finding the six-year-old daughter of a baronet. Problem is, this missing girl is no ordinary child, and collectors of medical curiosities and circus masters alike are interested in acquiring her.

    In its early chapters this delightful Victorian pastiche reminded me of a cross between Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Neil Gaiman’s

    , and that comparison played out pretty well in the remainder. Kidd p

    In the autumn of 1863 Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is tasked with finding the six-year-old daughter of a baronet. Problem is, this missing girl is no ordinary child, and collectors of medical curiosities and circus masters alike are interested in acquiring her.

    In its early chapters this delightful Victorian pastiche reminded me of a cross between Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Neil Gaiman’s

    , and that comparison played out pretty well in the remainder. Kidd paints a convincingly gritty picture of Dickensian London, focusing on an underworld of criminals and circus freaks: when Bridie first arrived in London from Dublin, she worked as an assistant to a resurrectionist; her maid is a 7-foot-tall bearded lady; and her would-be love interest, if only death didn’t separate them, is the ghost of a heavily tattooed boxer.

    Medicine (surgery – before and after anesthesia) and mythology (mermaids and selkies) are intriguing subplots woven through, such that this is likely to appeal to fans of

    and

    . Kidd’s prose is spry and amusing, particularly in her compact descriptions of people (but also in her more expansive musings on the dirty, bustling city): “a joyless string of a woman, thin and pristine with a halibut pout,” “In Dr Prudhoe’s countenance, refinement meets rogue,” and “People are no more than punctuation from above.”

    I’ll definitely go back and read Kidd’s two previous novels,

    and

    . [Trigger warnings: violence against women and animals.] (Out from Canongate on April 4th.)

    Originally published on my blog,

    .

  • Hannah Greendale

    When the who, what, where, when, why and how are all revealed in the prologue, there's not much mystery or intrigue to be had. Kidd leaves a few too many loose ends, delivers a murky assault midway through the book, offers up a hackneyed villain, and never quite clarifies some relationships between characters, yet she crafts such an unusual world one can't help but keep turning pages. Water dripping down walls, snails migrating en masse, a girl of alabaster skin whose bite is venemous, a ghost w

    When the who, what, where, when, why and how are all revealed in the prologue, there's not much mystery or intrigue to be had. Kidd leaves a few too many loose ends, delivers a murky assault midway through the book, offers up a hackneyed villain, and never quite clarifies some relationships between characters, yet she crafts such an unusual world one can't help but keep turning pages. Water dripping down walls, snails migrating en masse, a girl of alabaster skin whose bite is venemous, a ghost whose tattoes shift and move, a female detective with a penchant for pipe-smoking whose past is a cabinet of curiosites. They can all be found in the gritty streets of Victorian London on the pages of

    , a book that boils down to imaginative character studies and extravagant language.

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