A young woman sensitive to spirits becomes a caretaker for a cantankerous hoarder and his haunted house in Kidd’s (Himself, 2016) latest novel.
For much of her life, Maud Drennan has been able to see saints, a talent that has predisposed her to loneliness, especially after the mysterious disappearance of her older sister. But even these heavenly figures cannot protect her from the convoluted mystery at the heart of Cathal Flood’s house. At first, most of Maud’s horror is directed at the dirt and detritus—a kitchen that’s hardly ever been cleaned; a stack of National Geographic magazines that serves to wall off parts of the house—but soon she realizes there are much more malevolent memories lurking behind the mess. She begins to have strange dreams about Mr. Flood’s dead wife, and she finds a photo of an unknown girl, her face burned away, and a series of clippings about a different missing girl. Maud begins to wonder whether Mr. Flood—or someone related to him—might not actually be a killer. Her investigations bring her face to face with Mr. Flood’s unpleasant son; a nasty busybody church secretary; a mostly bald cat; and a handsome man who isn’t who he says he is. The eccentric characters are a bit hard to acclimate to in the beginning, but after a few chapters, the oddness becomes fascinating rather than off-putting. Maud is intrepid and clever and winningly awkward with her phantom saints, and Mr. Flood, despite his awful hygiene, is endearingly irascible. The mystery itself becomes less of a focus, second to Maud’s hijinks in seeking to solve it, but answers are given, and they satisfy the creepy sense of unease instilled by Maud’s early encounters in the house.
It won’t be like any other novel you’ve read this year—or maybe ever—but it’s worth it.