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Himself    by Jess Kidd order for
by Jess Kidd
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a very different, very lyrical novel set in an isolated western Irish village, Mulderrig. It's part mystery and part ghost story, with romance around its edges, and antic humor throughout. It opens on a young woman's murder in 1950.

Mahony was raised in an orphanage, where he was abandoned (he assumed by his young single mother) as an infant. It was a harsh upbringing, from which he emerged as a rather charming thief and reprobate. When an anonymous note suggests that his mother Orla ('the curse of the town') met foul play and someone else left him on the orphanage steps, he decides to investigate and (in 1976) travels to Mulderrig, breaking his parole to do so.

Mahony meets, and charms, all sorts of eccentric characters, including the town's ghosts. 'The dead are drawn to the confused and the unwritten, the damaged and the fractured, to those with big cracks and gaps in their tales, which the dead just yearn to fill.' He settles in to a room at Rathmore House, run by pretty Shauna Burke. The formidable elderly Mrs. Cauley rooms there too and rules the roost. She takes up Mahony's cause and runs with it. And she also sees ghosts.

Mahony survives a series of attacks, and the hostility of the local priest. He learns that his mother 'was the wild bad girl of the village'. She refused to live by the rules, and the dead shared dark village secrets with her. Mrs. Cauley stages a play with Mahony as lead, using it as a means to question villagers. And the amateur detectives find many suspects. Mahony refuses a substantial bribe to leave town, and her books save Mrs. Cauley's life.

There will be a few more ghosts in Mulderrig before it's all over, some deserving their deaths more than others! If you're looking for an unusual mystery, in which ghosts play as much a part as the living, then you'll appreciate Himself.

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