“Himself” will keep you laughing and guessing till the end

 In Opinion

Himself, by Jess Kidd, is a ghost story wrapped in a comedy inside a mystery.

It is set in 1976, in the small town of Mulderrig on the west coast of Ireland and at “the arse-end of nowhere”. Returning to the village is Mahony, a Dublin-based petty criminal and orphan who is intent on solving the mystery of what happened to his mother, Orla, who vanished 26 years earlier.

Mahony had always believed that his mother had run off after she abandoned him as a new born on the steps of a Dublin orphanage. He had no idea who she was or where she was from.

This is all turned upside down when Mahony is given an anonymous note identifying both her and the village she was from. The note also suggests that foul play may have been involved in her disappearance.

His arrival in Mulderrig sets tongues wagging and many of the town’s people are more than a little intrigued. Who is this handsome charmer with a face that seems oddly familiar? Why would a Dubliner want to visit such a small town? What is he after?

In no time Mahony has allies who want to help him uncover the truth and enemies who are intent on thwarting him.

There is the malevolent priest, Father Quinn, who is described as “having a face that inspired a strong and instant mistrust”. Quinn is abetted by, the widow Farelly, a retired nurse, who is made of “steel and bolts”. The widow Farelly may or may not have helped some of patients to an early grave. They both see Mahony as a threat to the moral fabric of the village and want him gone.

His most colourful ally is the ancient, sharp tongued, Mrs. Cauley, a retired actress with a fondness for “medicinal” brandy and no tolerance for meddling priests.

Before meeting her, Mahony is warned that she is, “titanic”. In fact she is as small as a child and resembles a “benign, geriatric spider”. However, she possesses an iron will, a sharp mind and a voice, “honed to turn corners, vault walls and open door handles”. She is bent on helping Mahony and concocts an elaborate scheme to uncover the truth about his mother.

As a character Mrs. Cauley, with her wisecracks and barbs, steals the show. Of Father Quinn she says, “When God was giving out charm, that fecker was last in line.”

Added to this rich mix is Mahony’s special gift. He can see and talk to dead people. Among them are Johnnie, Mrs. Cauley’s beloved fiancé, Father Jim, Quinn’s predecessor who died under mysterious circumstances and Ida, an eight-year-old girl who may hold the key to knowing what happened to Mahony’s mother.

However, the dead are not without their challenges, as Mrs. Cauley knows, “They’re like cats, Mahony. You of all people should know that. They don’t always come when you call.”

Himself is a story full of surprises and will keep you both laughing and guessing till the end.

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