Book Review- Things in Jars

This is not your usual run-of-the-mill murder mystery.


Author: Jess Kidd 

Publisher: Canongate

Publication Date: 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction 

Page count: 402

Jess Kidd transports the reader right into the underbelly of Victorian London in this Victorian detective tale which also includes a few supernatural twists.

Bridie Devine is a headstrong female detective often sought out by the London Police on hard to solve cases. When Christabel Berwick, the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, is kidnapped Bridie is brought in to solve the case.  Kept hidden from society Christabel reportedly has supernatural powers including an ability to get inside people’s minds, a poisonous bite, and the ability to control water.

Alongside her housemaid, Cora Butter, “the most terrifying, seven-foot-tall housemaid in London” and a heavily tattooed ghost of a dead boxer, Bridie leads the most unlikely crime-fighting trio.

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Things in Jars by Jess Kidd 

The book is written in a style reminiscent of a Victorian sensationalist novel and features a dual timeline. In addition to following Bridie’s efforts to trace the kidnapped child, alternate chapters are flashbacks in which Kidd unpacks Bridie’s unconventional upbringing.  Kidd is very detail orientated and describes the settings and characters in such minute detail which makes the novel very atmospheric. I really enjoyed the way in which Kidd offers humorous little titbits when introducing her characters informing the reader of certain personality quirks, their dreams, likes, and dislikes.

However, due to the sheer amount of description, the multiple timelines, and the complex layering of the mystery there is a lot to take in. you definitely do need to be concentrating when reading this one or you will miss things!

Additionally, there are so many themes unpacked in this novel. In addition to the commentary on the position of women in Victorian society and the ethics of displaying human bodies, Kidd weaves elements of folklore and scientific discovery to create an interesting juxtaposition of magic versus science.

Although I thought the ending was slightly rushed, I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in Victorian London, surrounded by eccentric characters and swept up by the mystery and intrigue contained within the pages of this book.  I think this is a perfect escapist read for these strange times.


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