Canongate will publish Costa Award-winning author Jess Kidd’s third novel, “an enchanting Victorian detective story”, as a lead fiction title next year.
The company’s publishing director Francis Bickmore acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Susan Armstrong at C+W. Bickmore described the London-based mystery as “a novel that breaks the mould entirely”, promising “a very noisy publication" for the lead title in spring 2019.
Things in Jars is Kidd’s third title, all published by Canongate, and is billed by the publisher as “an enchanting Victorian detective story that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times”.
Set in London in 1863, it follows Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, the blurb reads, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist. As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.
Kidd’s debut, Himself, was acquired by the independent publisher in 2015 and shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016 before she went on to win the Costa Short Story Award in the same year. In 2017, Himself was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.
Her second novel, The Hoarder, a tale of a lonely care worker and her cranky client set in West London, was published in hardback last year. Both books were BBC Radio 2 "Book Club" picks and she has sold 13,766 copies for £129,049 according to Nielsen BookScan.
Kidd, who was brought up in London as part of a large family from County Mayo, completed her first degree in Literature with The Open University. She has taught creative writing and gained a PhD in Creative Writing Studies, as well as working as a support worker specialising in acquired brain injury.
She said: “Things in Jars has been a blast to write and there is no better publisher for a sprawling, immersive, brand-new take on Victorian London than Canongate. Together we present an assault on the senses, a detective story with a cast of characters I adore and a grave-defying romance. Things in Jars explores what it is to be human in inhumane times and as such, feels timely. I hope that readers who enjoyed Himself and The Hoarder will find much to love in this book – as well as a few surprises.”
Bickmore described Kidd’s writing as “an ever-renewing delight”.
“Readers of Himself or The Hoarder will have high expectations but Things in Jars is a novel that breaks the mould entirely,” he said. “It sucks the reader into a Victorian London that is gloriously familiar and at the same time uncannily new. Bridie Devine – canny and kick-ass, smart and fearless, feminine and formidable – is our guide to this unsafe city, a detective of sorts, but not like any you’ve met before. You would be advised to tread with extreme caution. The city is not what it seems.”
He added: “Proofs are at the printers and we are already hatching a very noisy publication for April 2019.”
Armstrong said: "Working with Jess Kidd is always a joy and each time she delivers, I know to expect something utterly unique and beguiling. With Things in Jars Jess has taken a secret, wrapped it up in the smoky funk of Victorian London and let the delightfully fierce Bridie Devine loose on solving the mystery. As with all Jess Kidd novels, both her writing and characters are in a class of their own and Things in Jars improves on that stellar tradition."