There’s something special about falling head over heels in love with a book. You become smitten with the characters. You laugh, get misty-eyed, and feel just a little lonely when you turn the last page. That was my 5-star reaction to Jess Kidd’s 2017 debut novel, Himself. That book swept me off my feet with its mystery, its ghosts, and its brilliant, cheeky banter. I recommended the novel over and over again, and, unsurprisingly, those readers gobbled the book up just as quickly. So when I heard that Jess Kidd penned her second novel, which was another mystery that was packed with fabulous characters and sarcastic ghosts, I waited for the release with bated breath. I became so impatient that I ordered the UK version of the novel rather than waiting for the American publication. This is why I’m reviewing The Hoarder rather than Mr. Flood’s Last Resort. Different covers, same story.
The Hoarder revolves around the quick-witted and determined Maud Drennan. Maud is the caregiver of the wildly eccentric Mr. Flood, which is a relationship that could carry a story all on its own. Beyond this arrangement, Maud is also touched by the other side, so to speak. Not to mince words, but our darling caregiver can see the ghosts of various saints. The saint that presents itself depends on the situation that Maud finds herself in, and let’s just say that their interactions made me laugh out loud more than once. Maud never loses her head when they appear (I certainly would), and when they whisper their knowledge or lack thereof in her ear, she takes everything in stride.
Maud also has a wonderful relationship with her agoraphobic landlady (card reader extraordinaire), and their bond is just as precious as the one that starts to form between Maud and Carthal Flood.
Carthal Flood lives in a decrepit mansion. The dwelling is crawling with feral cats, a sandwich-loving fox, and monstrous piles of looming garbage. You see, Mr. Flood is a hoarder. Actually, by description, he seems to put other hoarders to shame. Walls have been constructed within this mansion made entirely out of this elderly man’s earthly possessions. The home has become a maze within a maze, and slowly, Mr. Flood permits Maud to remove portions of the filth. She soon finds the stove, the toilet, and then… the mess starts to communicate with her. Photographs drop into sight. Items roll down staircases. Noises pop up in the distance. What do these messages mean? It quickly becomes apparent that someone wants Maud to solve a disturbing mystery about a missing schoolgirl. Can she? Can she employ the assistance of her landlady, Mr. Flood’s former caregiver, and the saintly ghosts of the past to help solve this chilling question? And what role will Maud’s own dark past play as everything unspools?
The biggest difference between The Hoarder and Himself was the degree of mournfulness attributed to the stories. While Himself was a murder mystery, there was always an uproarious slant to the narrative. It was lighter. Funnier. The Hoarder, on the other hand, only dips one toe in amusing backtalk. Every other chapter became an unwavering glimpse into Maud’s troubling past, and these bleak memories overshadowed anything that tried to be lighthearted. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but readers of Himself might be taken aback by the second novel’s darkness. Is the wit and charm still present? Absolutely. You just have to dig a little harder, and give the characters the attention that they so richly deserve.
I fell pretty hard for Mr. Flood. Even when the novel hinted at a questionable backstory, I was pretty set in liking him. His trust was a gift, and Maud soon recognized that offering her hand in friendship was just as important as solving the mystery. Was the mystery solved? You bet, and it’s a great twist. The book also leaves us with a hint of a sequel, which made me grin widely with delight.
Overall, there’s a tremendous life lesson hidden in the squalor of Mr. Flood’s home, and I dare say that we should all take note. Perhaps, just perhaps, loneliness can be just as troubling as a years-old mystery.
5 sweet stars for The Hoarder. Now I wait for her next story.