Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller

Himself by Jess Kidd

Synopsis (Goodreads): When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.

His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers.

Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

This novel was such a fantastic read, with its dark story and simple but beautiful prose. Almost everything about this novel worked for me!

The premise of this novel was absolutely incredible. Mahony has come to Mulderrig to find out about his mother, a woman he has never known, who he has presumed abandoned him when he was a baby in an orphanage. Just recently, he received a letter telling him that there is more to the tale than that, and the answers are in Mulderrig. If that wasn’t enough of an attention-grabber, the quirky antics of the townspeople and the numerous ghostly encounters certainly are! I loved the elements of magical realism in the story. To be fair, I love magical realism in general. But it was incorporated so well here and it added this interesting mix to an already intriguing tale.

The characters in this novel are definitely unique – and this stands for both the villains and the protagonists. Mahony is a handsome, charming man who also has a dark side that all women find attractive. I loved his charisma and the way he could get along with (almost) everybody. Another notable protagonist that I want to mention is Mrs. Cauley. To me, she was the real star of the show because she was quirky and wise and always ready to spring into action. The one character I didn’t really like is Shauna; while she was the tame element needed to ground the story, she really didn’t play a big part and didn’t have much of a personality. It made it hard for me to understand her subsequent relationship with another character in this story because it just felt underdeveloped. Apart from that, all other characterizations were fabulous!

The writing style was also amazing. The story is written in a simple way, with short chapters that are easy to get through. And yet, the writing expresses so much depth and so much beauty in its descriptions. There were a lot of layers to the story and these layers came together wonderfully through the simple yet complex writing style.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It had a great story, great characters, and a wonderful writing style. I cannot wait to read more from this author! 5/5 stars from me.

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