Jess Kidd’s 2016 debut “Himself” attracted a lot of attention and was shortlisted for awards. I was of the opinion that it introduced us to an impressive new voice and I was delighted to interview her and have my review published alongside the interview in NB magazine Issue #90 when “Himself” was one of the featured titles. I thought the book fizzled with life, with its setting of an Irish village in the mid-1970s where the author introduced us to memorable characters in a mystery tale which seamlessly took in elements of magic and the supernatural.
With “The Hoarder” she has largely done it again and produced her second strong read. This time we are in present day West London where main character Maud Drennan has started work as an agency care-worker for Cathal Flood, a difficult elderly man and the hoarder of the title. It’s not just him thwarting Maud’s plans to put things in order as the supernatural draws the care-worker into a mystery involving a disappearance and a possible murder hidden deep within the secrets of the house.
As in “Himself” main character Maud is able to see ghosts but here they are a host of Saints who act as her spirit guides and I must admit that this aspect does not work as well for me as it did last time round. In “Himself” main character Mahoney was also aided and abetted by an unlikely side-kick, the wig-wearing Mrs Causley who memorably sees herself as “Miss Marple. With balls”. In this novel this role is taken by another unlikely candidate the wig-wearing, agoraphobic, transsexual Renata, who for me did not sparkle quite as much as her predecessor (but who could also fit Mrs Causley’s description!)
This time around, however, I did find the mystery element of the novel more satisfying yet I did miss that great sense of the outsider coming into a tight-knit community theme which worked so well in “Himself”. I suppose there is a danger when an author’s second novel has a similar feel to the first that comparisons will be made. There is no doubt that if you enjoyed the debut then you will get much out of this and if you enjoy this as the stand-alone novel it is then I urge you to seek out her first book where everything feels just a little fresher and where her imagination gleams just a little more brightly.
The Hoarder was published in hardback by Canongate in February 2018