“A cloth covers the jar that Bridie took from the bookcase in the nursery, and Ruby is thankful for this. For the contents have the ability to rearrange even a dead man’s sense of reality. As with all terrible, wondrous sights, there is a jolt of shock, then a hypnotic fascination, then the uneasy queasiness, then the whole thing starts again; the desire to look and the desire never to have looked in the first place.”
Bridie Devine is a well-known detective who takes on a case involving the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick. Few people were aware of her existence but it becomes clear that the girl possesses supernatural qualities, which have drawn the attention of collectors who specialize in oddities. Bridie is intent on finding the child and uncovering the truth behind her disappearance, especially as Sir Edmund himself proves to be less than forthcoming. But in order to do that she will need to reconnect with parts of her past that she had long buried. To assist her is Cora, her seven-foot tall housemaid with a sharp tongue, and Ruby, a tattoo-covered ghost. What unfolds is a story of secrets that blends light and dark along with the surreal.
‘’The woman is made of boot polish and pipe smoke, clean cloth and the north wind. And as for the dead man walking behind her, well, he means no harm.’’
Initially I was just going to read a chapter of this book to get a sense of the story because I wasn’t sure what exactly I was in the mood to read. But then I just kept reading and reading well into the night. The writing is lovely and completely drew me in. I am generally not a fan of very descriptive writing styles, but here there was this perfect balance of imagery and story progression. My absolute favourite aspect of a novel is compelling characters, and Things in Jars delivers that as well. Bridie especially is intelligent, brave, and a wonderful protagonist. What I enjoyed the most was the dialogue and banter between characters, particularly with Bridie and Ruby, the ghost. In fact that part of the story I found to be really touching. And Cora is the kind of friend you definitely want to have. There is the mystery aspect of the story, but there is also time spent going back to Bridie’s childhood and discovering how it may relate to present day events. Even though I am such a big fan of mysteries, I found myself mostly drawn to the characters and the strangeness of the things presented in this world. Some things made me chuckle and there were moments that left me feeling unsettled. As with any story that utilizes magical realism, it was strange and bizarre, but written in a way that gives that nostalgic feeling of fairy tales. I am eager to read many more books by this author.