When I think of books to compare Himself to, nothing springs to mind. When I think of how to describe Himself, the first word that comes to me is “Irish”. This book is very Irish. From the setting to the dialogue, maybe even to the mystical elements it contains.
Mahoney, an orphan from a young age, a crook, and a very charming man, returns to Mulderrig, the town he was born in. His mother was a wild young girl who scandalized the town before disappearing with her baby boy. Popular opinion says she got on a bus and left, abandoning her baby soon after, but some in Mulderrig believe that she met a more sinister event and so Mahoney begins to investigate.
He does so with the help of an eccentric, elderly former actress and together they launch a play, using the it as an opportunity to interview the people of the town and to try and piece together what really happened. To further complicate matters, Mahoney sees dead people.
While this might sound like it launches the book into the realm of fantasy, Kidd deftly creates this gift of second sight as a defining characteristic of Mahoney. Without it, he might be just another sleazy, good-looking charmer, flirting with the ladies of the town (who certainly don’t seem to mind). However, Mahoney’s constant visions and interactions with the dead around him lend him a depth and a backstory that make his character all the more fascinating. He is haunted and amused and confused by the dead around him, left wondering why his own mother never appears to him, and how much he can trust or understand the stories they tell him. His own true history is slowly pieced together by his interactions with both the living and the dead and it certainly creates a unique type of mystery story.
As a first novel, Himself is very impressive. While it has its uneven parts, it shows a unique voice and a great deal of creativity and I look forward to seeing more from Kidd.