Things in Jars by Jess Kidd follows investigator Bridie Devine, who is tasked with solving the kidnapping of Christabel, daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick. The child, apparently, has been kept secret from the world, and the more Bridie investigates, the more mystery there is surrounding the girl. Combine that with a ghost following Bridie, as well as the haunting memories of her own childhood, and this case is shaping up to be the strangest that she has ever tackled.
So, this book is not really at all what I expected, beyond being a historical mystery with a supernatural twist.
I liked Bridie as a protagonist. She’s bright and brave, and willing to bend the rules of conventional investigations to solve the case. I enjoyed seeing the way the two timelines (the current case, as well as twenty years ago to her childhood) intertwined, showing us many facets of her personality and her various experiences.
I also liked the two main side characters, Cora and Ruby, but the other characters didn’t really jump out at me. It may be because it took me weeks to read this (I kept getting distracted by other books), but I had trouble keeping track of who was who, and how they knew each other.
As for the writing style, I had a bit of trouble adjusting to it. Kidd has a distinctive and interesting narration here, but uses a lot of old slang from Victorian England that I just don’t know. Overall, I struggled a bit with this one some of the time.
The imagery was one of the best parts of this, though. Kidd uses a lot of sensory descriptions to set the scenes, relying on smell and temperature, sounds and sensations, and it’s quite effective. You really feel swept into the grime and chill of London—strangely, it reminds me of the gritty portrayal of the city in the Sherlock Holmes films. That was one of my favorite aspects of this novel.
In the end, though, Things in Jars wasn’t the easiest book for me to get into. The mystery is engaging enough, and I like the main characters, but I wasn’t prepared for just how weird the plot is. The folklore elements are fascinating, the imagery was fantastic, and the flashbacks are interesting, but mostly, I was kind of confused and not entirely invested.
Overall rating: 7/10