An exquisite book of fantasy and mystery with a little bit of romance
Set in late 1800’s London, Jess Kidd brings us to another world in which mermaids and ghosts exist.
The story starts off slow and I wondered if the book wasn’t what I had hoped for, but the more pages I turned the more eager I was to know where the story was going.
“Things in Jars” begins with a prologue that sets the scene for a murder-mystery-whodunnit-romance that keeps the reader guessing at every twist in the plot. A little girl who is no ordinary girl is taken by a nasty woman under the alias “Mrs. Bibby,” who has only malevolent intentions.
As the story unfolds, the true identity of the woman is revealed in bits and pieces through flashbacks, but this woman is not the hero of the story nor is she the villain.
The protagonist is introduced and described as a handsome woman with an ugly widow’s bonnet. Her name is Bridie Divine, private investigator and heartthrob.
At the end of the book, I came to understand that Kidd was intentional with the pacing of the book. It started off slow with painstakingly descriptive narratives and long chapters, but towards the end, she kicks up the pace with short chapters that the reader can’t read fast enough.
While Bridie is working a job that involves the bodies of a mother and infant in the catacombs of a church, she is being followed by a ghost by the name of Ruby Doyle. He strikes a deal with Bridie that if she can remember how they know each other, he will leave her alone.
It is not until the very last pages of the book that Bridie discovers the memory that reveals their relationship, which leaves her sobbing and the reader tearful. Throughout the course of the book, a fierce and distant romance is kindled between Bridie and Ruby, but nothing comes to fruition because he is a ghost and she is living.
Nevertheless, he becomes a great companion and sidekick on her journey to find the young girl, Christabel, who was taken. Like I mentioned previously, she is no ordinary girl, but a “merrow.”
A merrow is described as being something similar to a mermaid, but far more dangerous. The merrow can control the tides and the weather and poison any man with a bite. The merrow can also draw memories from the minds of people who had thought the memories long forgotten.
Christabel becomes a bidding piece in the sinister game of circus ring leaders and evil men, and even the people who are most close to her.
It becomes Bridie’s goal to free the girl and redeem herself from a botched case that scorned her name in London. Bridie must face an old enemy who she thought was dead and uncover memories that she wished she had forgotten in a place she used to live.
After reflecting on the book once it was finished, I came to understand that Bridie felt so inclined to rescue Christabel because she saw herself in the fantastic creature—a young girl being forced here, there and everywhere because of what she was. Bridie was forced to grow up in a world where gravedigging was the norm, at just five years old she could save a grown man’s life with her surgical knowledge and at eight she was a surgeon’s assistant to Dr. James Eames.
It is in Dr. Eames’s home that she meets the villain of the story and who she describes as the Antichrist himself—Gideon Eames, the doctor’s son.
Coming face-to-face in a gripping conclusion, Bridie and Gideon meet again and one must destroy the other for Christabel.
“Things in Jars” will now be filed under one of my favorite books and was worth every annoyingly awful alliteration and never-ending narrative about the description of a surgeon’s leather medical bag or something else.