Jess Kidd’s third novel, Things in Jars, gives readers more of a crime sub genre that never seems to go out of style – the supernatural Victorian detective story. Last year, among others, we had Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands. And now, Jess Kidd delivers a feisty Victorian-era female detective, ghosts and deeply mythological creatures.
Bridie Divine is still smarting after failing to save an abducted child for whom she was searching. So it is with some reluctance that she takes on another case of a missing child. This child is special in mysterious ways hinted at in the book’s cold open. Bridie is assisted not only by her seven foot tall maid and an old friend in the police force but by the spirit of a dead boxer who only she can see. The boxer, Ruby Doyle, appears to her in a graveyard, claims to know her, and then follows her on her quest, often giving his own advice.
Things in Jars is a cracking tale told in Kidd’s unique style which brings Victorian London, its back alleys, hospitals and freak shows and markets alive. Bridie herself is a rough, flawed heroine, who isn’t above the odd disguise. Her past and its relevance to the case sketched out in short flashback chapters.
If this was one of the more established crime fiction writers this might feel like the start of an interesting series. But Jess Kidd has yet to do the same thing twice. So while a sequel is always a possibility, for now Things in Jars exists fully formed as a wonderful, engaging stand-alone supernatural Victorian detective novel. And when done well, there can never be enough of those.