Maud Drennan is a forty-something carer. Originally from Ireland, she now lives in London and finds herself taking care of Cathal Flood, a man it isn’t easy to like. He frightened his last carer away, and the ones before that. Somehow, though, Maud is holding on, slowly making her way through Cathal’s house and the years of dirt, grime and chaos he has accumulated.
Whether it’s her grit, or their shared Irish roots, Cathal begins to let her in – and so does his rambling, shambolic house. Because, as well as being a carer, Maud is psychic and, pretty quickly, it becomes clear that the house – or it’s former residents are trying to tell her something.
The question is what? Her agrophobic landlady thinks it’s that Cathal killed his wife, and possibly a girl whose photos Maud finds but whose face she can’t see because they’ve been defaced. Maud isn’t so sure. Despite his grumpiness and general unfriendliness, she is warming to Cathal and finds it hard to believe he is capable of murder. She can’t be sure though, and with ghosts and saints whispering in her ear (along with her neighbour), she feels she has no choice but to find out, even if it puts her in danger – and it does.
If it all sounds little crazy and a little strange, it is, but in such a good way. Just like last year’s Himself, Jess Kidd has created a wonderful, off-the-wall world, that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s dark, slightly scary, but also fascinating, with saints and ghosts wandering the halls of the house and the pages of the book, popping up randomly to impart wisdom or move the story along. Then there’ a back story about Maud’s childhood, adding to the intrigue.
It could easily fall apart with so much going on, but Kidd holds it together and keeps it on the right side of weird. At the core, there is a good, old-fashioned mystery but what makes it different is the way Kidd writes. She has a wonderful way of weaving a story around a group of unlikely characters (the landlady is brilliant) and a wonderful way with words (“In Renata’s eyes there is the creek and pitch of a thousand ships and the moon on the water and the song of a sad drunken deckhand.”).
The whimsical nature of the language won’t suit everyone but it suited me and it suited the story. Everything fit perfectly, leaving me loving the book – though (if there is a downside) perhaps not quite as much as Himself.
About the book…
Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up for her.
With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?
Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication date: 1st February, 2018
Number of pages: 352
Rating: 4 out of 5
Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.