The Hoarder, by Jess Kidd.
Irishwoman Maude Drennan is temping for a company that provides home help for the well-off in London’s West End; currently, she is employed as a ‘caregiver’ to another countryman, Cathal Flood, an ancient recluse and hoarder whose property is so full of rats and rubbish that the local Council consider it and him a health hazard. They want to put him into ‘Assisted Living’ which, according to Cathal, would be worse than dying. Fair enough, but Cathal does nothing to endear himself to Maud, a potential ally; instead he does everything he can to make himself disagreeable – and so does the house! Taps turn on and flood everything just after she has cleaned it; the kettle regularly boils itself dry and the pantry is always emptying its newly clean shelves. What to do? For with every inexplicable mishap that Maud must rectify, a fresh clue to the house’s past occupants reveals itself: the house is trying to tell her something, and gets angry when Maud is not clever enough to read the signs.
Maud’s home-life isn’t all hunky-dory either: her downstairs neighbour, a majestic transvestite called Renata with whom she drinks another neighbour’s questionable home-made hooch every night, is a lover of detective yarns and is fascinated by Maud’s tales of the house and its caprices (not to mention Cathal and his acres of garbage); Renata has a list of things that Maude should do to solve the various mysteries – unfortunately, she can’t assist because Agoraphobia has made her a prisoner in her maisonette for many years. Her resentful sister (‘she’s just jealous because I stole all her boyfriends off her!’) does her shopping, in between fights involving door-slamming and vowing never to return, but Renata is a prisoner of her fears. Solving the mystery – and a couple of probable murders will be Maud’s responsibility entirely, which is very hard, for she has secrets of her own that don’t bear close scrutiny, such as the several saints (all from her Granny’s Book of Saints that Maud loved as a child) that tiresomely dog her footsteps: who knows which – or all – of them will be following her down the street, whether she wants their company or not!
Ms Kidd’s singular characters are all beautifully larger than life, and an added bonus is that unique brand of humour that can only be Irish, not to mention the swear-words: there are enough gobshites and feckers in this book to float a boat. Fair play to you Ms Kidd! SIX STARS.