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As Mahony chats with some men at Flanagan’s Bar, it seems that he was raised by Sister Mary Margaret since he was left on the orphanage’s doorstep as a baby. Strangely he was found in a basket with leaves for a blanket and rose petals for a pillow.

Himself by Jess Kidd review – humour and horror collide

Mahony causes a tremendous stir in the village, with his brooding good looks, unshaven appearance, easy charm and – less palatably to its residents – relentless pursuit of the truth of what happened to his mother. The official story is that Orla, the local good-time girl, who grew up in a filthy hovel at the edge of the forest, left Mulderrig one afternoon in May 1950, and abandoned her child to the “care” of nuns. Yet as the novel opens with Orla’s brutal murder in the forest all those years ago, as witnessed by her infant son, it is evident that most of the village is, if not in cahoots with her killer, at the very least unwilling to uncover the past.

They almost reach the foot of the staircase when a voice rolls out into the hallway and along the faded carpet. It’s the sort of voice honed to turn corners, vault walls and open door handles.”

Jess Kidd - Book Series In Order Jess Kidd - Book Series In Order

Mrs Cauley, who has taken it upon herself to help Mahony, has taken over the role of my favourite character of the year, wrestling it just from the grip of Dead Papa Toothwort from “Lanny”. As a noirish thriller with a supernatural edge, Himself is atmospheric and intriguing. As a portrait of village hypocrisy and the dark things that lurk beneath the surface, it’s also compelling. Mahony rents a room in the same house as the retired actress Mrs. Merle Cauley. Mahony and Cauley conclude that his mother must have been murdered and begin to investigate, starting with the interviewing everyone who shows up for auditions for the annual amateur play. The two have a similar way of cutting through bullshit and pretension and make an entertaining team.This was a fun read: a town populated with colorful characters, both living AND dead, a juicy mystery, and a bit of a love story thrown in to boot. It was sometimes a bit of a chore keeping all the players straight, and there's a very nasty dog killing scene that seemed to serve no purpose other than to create a ghost dog, but on the whole, it was a fine time. I particularly enjoyed the cursing; nobody can spew creative curses like the Irish. Jess Kidd writes good characters altogether. Mrs Cauley is just wonderful and practically drives the whole book. The ghosts are good too, Johnnie with his unfortunate antics, Ida the small girl who tries to help, Miss Mulhearne who gets Mahoney to read her poetry and many others. The town of Mulderrig is haunted by ghosts that the protagonist, Mahony, can see. From both a practical and thematic standpoint, what role do you think the ghosts play in this story, and why is it significant that only Mahony can see them?

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