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Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Things in Jars

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by Jess Kidd

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Quick take

Strong Victorian women dealing with wildly unladylike things. Like death. And maybe a kidnapped mermaid or two.

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Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Things in Jars.
Things in Jars


As pale as a grave grub she’s an eyeful.

She looks up at him, startled, from the bed. Her pale eyes flitting fishy: intruder—lantern—door—intruder. As if she’s trying to work out how they all connect, with her eyes cauled and clouded.

Is she blind?

No. She sees him all right; he knows that she sees him. Now her eyes are following him as he steals nearer.

She’s pretty.

She’s more than pretty. She’s a churchyard angel, a marble carving, with her ivory curls and her pale, pale stony eyes. But not stone—brightening pearl, oh soft hued!

He could touch her: stroke her cheek, hold the wee point of her chin, wind her white curls around his finger.

Her lips are beginning to move, pouting and posturing, as if she’s working up to something, as if she’s working up to sound.

Without further thought he puts his hand over her mouth, his skin dark against hers in the lantern light. She frowns and her feet beat an angry tattoo despite the restraints and the coverlet is off. She has two legs, like a girl. Two thin white legs and two thin white arms and not much else in between.

Then she stops and lies still, panting.

The touch of her: she is like nothing in nature. Skin waxy and damp, breath cold: an unnatural coldness, like a corpse living.

And that smell again, stronger now, the sharp salt of the open ocean, an inky seaweed tang.

She fixes him with her pearly eyes. He feels the slick nubs of her teeth and the quick, wet probe of her tongue on his hand.

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Why I love it

It isn’t often that I find a singular and completely unique book in a genre as popular as historical fiction. A book that is so memorable in its mystery and believable in its fantasy that each time I put the book down it’s like waking from a twisted dream. But that’s exactly what I found in Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars, an immersive story with descriptions so bold you can almost taste, smell, and touch the underbelly of Victorian London—grotesqueries and all.

Bridie Devine is on a mission to crack an unusual case: The daughter of a wealthy and powerful man has been kidnapped. Only her existence was supposed to be a secret—as were her supernatural powers. Searching the streets of London with an amusing cast of sidekicks—think a pugilistic ghost and a giantess housemaid—Bridie searches for the missing child, and in the process, uncovers far more than she bargained for.

Kidd’s unique approach to storytelling is apparent from the very beginning, and throughout the story, I felt like a bird soaring above and then swooping into the scenes. Beautifully written but with subject matter that is dark and brutal, the novel perfectly blends fanciful elements with depth and realism. Reading Things in Jars is a beguiling, sensory, and most of all fun experience. This book is in a class all of its own.

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Member ratings (7,762)

  • Madelyn K.

    Asheville, NC

    A fantastical and mysterious historical novel. Told with an omniscient point of view, set in Victorian London. Kidd's vocabulary is fantastic! I loved the characters and the magical ????‍♂️????‍♀️ aspect.

  • Maureen G.

    Jefferson, MD

    Electrifying storytelling that swirls inside your heart. I feel like I’m the jar, wanting preserve this gritty fairytale and its’ charming misfit cast in my brain forever. Can’t sing my praises enough

  • Elle W.

    Boston, MA

    I’ve heard it wasn’t for everyone, but I personally loved the author’s prose. Jess Kidd’s ability to drop an image bomb onto the page was incredible. I loved the misfit heroine and her companions.

  • Alysson E.

    Portland, OR

    I 100% picked this book because of the gorgeous cover; but the story did not disappoint. It took a second to adjust to a London where ghosts appear and mermaids go missing, but then I was hooked. ❤️

  • Rebecca B.

    Ashburn, VA

    I adore this book! It’s one of my new favorites. The writing is beautiful, the story intriguing, and the characters unforgettable. I need a sequel or adaptation now. It’s not for the squeamish though.

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