Things in Jars

Atria. Feb. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781982121280. $27. F
In 1863, six-year-old Christabel Berwick is abducted. She has eyes that change color, envenomed pike-like teeth, and the ability to read minds, as well as control water. Chapters alternate between following the kidnappers and the redoubtable female detective Bridie Devine, whose nursery education was provided by a grave snatcher. Bridie’s assistant is the ghost of a tattooed pugilist, Ruby Doyle, whom only she can see. Kidd’s (Himself) prose is a river of detail, metaphor, and jarringly apt turns of phrase, bringing to life all too vividly the grotesque maze of human wickedness that Bridie threads. There are lies and betrayals, blasphemies and injustices, calloused hearts and pus-ridden toes. Rapes, illicit romances, and insanity. The corruption of children, the knocking out of teeth. And murders of all brands: drowning, stabbing, bludgeoning, poisoning, beheading, dismembering, and the killing of babies born and unborn. One woman is even vivisected before the tale of Christabel (and the “collectors” who covet her) is untangled.
VERDICT Fans of the macabre will be mesmerized by this horrific gothic tale, but some may be disturbed by the overt, grisly details.

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