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A Novel

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"[A] fast-paced yarn that nimbly soars above the Irish crime fiction genre Kidd clearly knows very well." —New York Times Book Review

“[A] supernaturally skillful debut.” —Vanity Fair

“A delicious, gratifying and ageless story.” —New York Journal of Books

Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives a tip one night at the bar suggesting that foul play may have led to the disappearance of his mother, he decides to return to the rural Irish village where he was born to learn what really happened twenty-six years earlier.

From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony’s presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider’s ways cause a stir among the locals, who receive him with a mixture of curiosity (the men), excitement (the women), and suspicion (the pious). It seems that his mother, Orla Sweeney, had left quite an impression on this little town—dearly beloved to some, a scourge and a menace to others. But who would have had reason to get rid of her for good?

Determined to find answers, Mahony solicits the help of brash pot-stirrer and retired actress Mrs. Cauley, and the two concoct an ingenious plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, some from beyond the grave. What begins as a personal mission gradually becomes a quiet revolution: a young man and his town uniting against corruption of power, against those who seek to freeze their small worlds in time, to quash the sinister tides of progress and modernity come hell or high water. But what those people seem to forget is that Mahony has the dead on his side....

Centering on a small town rife with secrets and propelled by a twisting-and-turning plot, Himself is a gem of a book, a darkly comic mystery, and a beautiful tribute to the magic of language, legacy, and storytelling.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 30, 2017 – In her exceptional debut novel, Kidd explores the dark corners of the human mind in small-town 1970s Ireland, creating a haunting story that moves between the supernatural and the mundane. A murder mystery on the surface, the story digs past the traditional whodunit structure to paint a rich portrait of village life. Mahony, a charming young man who can communicate with the dead, returns to Mulderrig, Ireland, his birthplace, in search of the truth about his mother's mysterious disappearance. As he dredges up the town's best-kept secrets, the line between past and present blurs, ghosts of the departed shadowing the footsteps of those still living. Mahony's quest is, at its core, a journey of self-discovery, yet his presence, much like his mother's, creates a ripple that churns into a tempest, ultimately threatening the stability of the town as a whole. The lavishly populated cast of characters boasts unique quirks, hidden motivations, and a dangerous instinct for self-preservation. In Mulderrig, Mahony learns, all is not as it seems; the departed prove to be the least of his worries. While the plot hurtles along at a rapid pace, leading inexorably to the heart-pounding final conflict, Kidd injects ample doses of macabre humor and lyrical description in this memorable story from a strange, bold new voice.

Customer Reviews


Himself is the first book by Jess Kidd so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a book that is hard to quantify. This is a standalone with no cliffhanger. There is violence and magical influences including a lot of ghosts.

The book blurb adequately describes the storyline so I'm not going to repeat all of that info here. The author did a good job of explaining Mahony's background, why he came to the village, and eventually the story of his mother. There is a lot of history and secrets between characters in the storyline that keep you guessing what twists and turns will be revealed next.

While overall the storyline was okay, I found it difficult to follow. The chapters kept going back and forth between the 1950s and 1970s. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters in the village, and which ones were alive and which ones were the ghosts. I don't usually judge an author by just one book, and I won't with Jess Kidd. I just hope the next book is easier for me to follow the storyline.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and chose to review it for other readers.

A wonderful debut that brings a mix of elements

A curious story here, we have Himself, or Mahony, in the 1970’s heading to the town of his birth, Mulderrig from his home in Dublin, to seek out the story of his birth mother, and just why the sister at the orphanage left him a letter stating his mother was the “curse of the town” and that is why he was “taken” from her.

Told in two interconnected parts, we have the current musings and discoveries from Mahoney in the 70’s, and his mother Orla’s story from the 50’s: both provide a wonderful mix of old and ‘new’, although New in a town like Mulderrig is far less advanced than the metropolis of Dublin of the time. It’s interesting to see the depictions of the town as a place where you are born, live and die, never to leave for everywhere else is an uphill trek. Little moments that bring the differences and lives into perspective through Mahony’s eyes, as he is, if not utterly reliable, possessed of that native Irish skill for storytelling and turning a phrase.

Alternating between humor, sentiment and intrigue, the two stories reveal the changes in attitudes, or lack of them. With characters arriving clearly defined by good or bad intent, and an interesting series of musings about Mahony himself, from the townspeople and women, drawn to his charm and inexplicable allure. From Mahoney and Orla, the characters are fully developed and breathe life into the story: complex people who demonstrate their humanity in often surprising ways from understandable given circumstances and what we are told to that point, with few choices that become more settled and clear as the story progresses. Other characters that arrive and are most easily characterized as “good” are well-thought out and fully realized, while those trending to the ‘bad’ side of the equation are less complex and closer to stereotype, leaving a bit of impact on the table as unfinished. When you add in Mahony’s ability to talk to ghosts, and a bit of intrigue from those long gone in the present, but able to add their two cents to the story, it is truly a magical read, giving a sense of the otherness so often enmeshed in Irish tales.

A wonderful debut that brings a mix of elements that share the growth of a place and a people, as well as a trek of self-discovery for the title character. Lovely prose with only a few moments that seem to be dropped in and take the feel of a more hard-bitten crime novel, the feel and scenery of Ireland is both present and clearly represented here. Certainly an author to watch, Jess Kidd has made her debut a wonderful experience, sure to find readers looking for that little bit of different and hard to quantify read.

I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


While the writing was beautiful, the story was dull as it progressed. A worthy start but went nowhere.

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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Mar 14, 2017
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings