Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Himself - Jess Kidd

Please read this book with an Irish accent

I was originally given an ebook version of this book to review but then good fortune sent me a complimentary paperback so I’ve been able to read it properly and enjoyed it all the more for that.

A powerful opening chapter sets the tone for this debut thriller from a bright young talent, Jess Kidd.
Eloquent, descriptive passages and abundant similes stamp this firmly as an enthusiastic debut novel.

A deceptive portrait of a sleepy Irish village seeks to conceal what has transpired in its murky past. Ballykissangel it ain’t! (Ballykissangel? Sorry, that’s me showing my age! TV show from the 90’s. Google it). A reference to Under Milkwood on the book cover had me sniggering with contempt which lasted milliseconds once I started to read. I got the allusion totally. 

And all is moving along swimmingly when The Sixth Sense - ‘I see dead people’ - interferes.
The supernatural and the spirit world isn’t my thing in fiction and I was worried that the initial credibility of what was an engaging narrative would erode for me.

I needn’t have worried!  This writer deals with the themes in such a way as to make it all palatable. All credit for a bold, ambitious premise from a first novel and it certainly makes an impact. Underneath all of this is a murder mystery, the bare bones of which has been done many times before so respect for this writer’s attempt to take a different approach.

Identity is a key theme, one man seeking to verify his own identity, and seeking identities - parent, murderer. And are the sins of the father visited upon the son? You’ll have to read it to find out.

There’s a feast of characters some of whom could be straight out of Father Ted and others straight out of Stephen King! There are some subtleties in the narrative that make you do a double take. Echoes of something read before, a wondering as to whether the comedy you saw was really intended? Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Samuel Beckett?

There are some starkly, brutal descriptions that at times I found gratuitous especially where animals were concerned. There was enough quality in the writing to leave it to the readers’ imaginations.

Overall I found the book weird yet curiously compelling and in a saturated market I guess you have to find something different to make your work stand out and whether you love it or hate it Jess Kidd does something different with this novel. I suspect this is a name to note and to watch out for. 

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