Sunday, April 2, 2017


Title:  Himself
Author:  Jess Kidd
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2017. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1501145177 / 978-1501145179

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "His first blow:  the girl made no noise, her dark eyes widened."

Favorite Quote:  "Words are capable of flying. They dart through windows, over fences, between bar stools, and across courtyards. They travel rapidly from mouth to ear, from ear to mouth. And as they go, they pick up speed and weight and substance and gravity. until they land with a scud, take seed, and grow as fast as the unruliest of beanstalks."

Who is Himself in this story? Is it Mahony who comes to the village of Mulderrig looking for his past? Is it the culprit in this mystery - the unnamed man on whose brutal actions the book opens? In the etymology of Irish English, the pronouns "himself" and "herself" can be used as "he" or "she" might be. Is Himself here? Is Himself the guilty party? Is it Himself? And so on. The terms are often used in this way to refer to someone of importance.

Why the language lesson? Because the language and cultural background is the charm of this book. It is what makes this murder mystery out of the ordinary. The plot is a fairly simple one. The book open on a murder being committed. Fast forward years later. Mahony, an unknown young man comes to a small village. Why? His stated reason is to get away from city life. The real reason is to search for his past, to find a murderer, and perhaps to seek vengeance. The small town setting gives rise to a whole host of eccentric characters. Some would help him; others have something to hide and would like to see him disappear. Slowly, the layers are peeled back, revealing connections and relationships until finally the murderer is revealed. A dramatic conclusion ensues.

What makes this book intriguing is the setting and the background of Irish folklore. Ghosts sometimes lead the way for those who have the gift of "sight." A tree protects a baby from a murderer. Magical places exist - "a low-tide island you could wait years for and still never see. This wasn't a coincidence; it was a benediction." A Brigadoon, perhaps?

The cast of characters is what you would expect in a small town novel. Mahoney is the handsome, sultry "bad boy," with his leather and cigarettes. Shauna is the small town girl who's been hurt before. Mrs. Cauley is the village matriarch (of sorts), holding court. There is the town busybody, the priest, and the town "bogeyman." A little quirkiness, a little humor, a little romance, and a little magic draw the characters together in the story. Ultimately, though, the book has too wide a cast, and the "good" characters are drawn out with much greater detail than the "evil" characters. It takes a while to get the characters - living and dead - and their relationships straight to settle into the story. The fact that the book moves between two time lines - Mahony's and his mother's - with overlapping characters exacerbates this issue.

The book sets up the folklore and the background beautifully. The beginning is colorful and atmospheric. However, the story itself flounders. It seems to loop through the same spot. The pace is slow, and the characters, plot or setting don't really build. About part way through, I find myself losing interest in the characters and the outcome.

Overall, the plot is a little scattered and falls a little short of the build up. However, I love the premise and setting and enjoy the descriptive writing.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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