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New Treasures: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Things in Jars-back-small Things in Jars-small

What is it about the Victorian Era that entrances modern readers? I’m not sure exactly, but something about investigating ghastly crimes on the gas-lit streets of London at midnight appeals to us all, I think. It certainly appeals to Jess Kidd, anyway. Her latest novel is Things in Jars — love that title! — which Kirkus Reviews calls “Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.”

Things in Jars is the tale of a formidable female sleuth in Victorian London (with a ghostly suitor) who is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of a very special child. The Guardian offers a more substantial summary, calling it:

High-camp crime… A pipe-smokin’, crypt-crashin’ heroine brings originality and freshness to this Victorian detective drama. This pacy piece of Victorian crime fiction delivers chills galore: pickled babies, wicked surgeons, a head in a hatbox and other unsettling discoveries.

Jess Kidd is the author of Himself, a “supernaturally skilled debut” (Vanity Fair) about a haunted Irish town, and Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, a tale of “Irish magical realism… mistaken identities, and a hoarder’s creepy house” (Library Journal), among others. Things in Jars was published in hardcover in February; here’s the description.

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.

Things in Jars was published by Atria Books on February 4, 2020. It is 381 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. I couldn’t find out who created the cover. Read an excerpt at the Simon & Schuster website.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

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