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It’s 1976 and the sleepy village of Mulderrig, County Mayo, has a visitor. The residents are initially captivated by Mahony, a swarthy, chain-smoking sweet-talker from Dublin. Then they discover why he’s there: to find out what happened to his mother, a local tearaway who “disappeared” 26 years earlier. It’s one of those things you don’t talk about.

Kidd’s debut novel is a blend of murder mystery, black comedy — and magical realism. As well as opening a can of worms, Mahony’s investigation precipitates a plague of spiders, a biblical thunderstorm and a series of interventions from Mulderrig’s itinerant ghosts.

While the disparate genres sometimes sit uneasily together, Himself is an imaginative, witty study of small communities and their secrets.

Himself, by Jess Kidd, Canongate, RRP£12.99, 368 pages

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