The Hoarder is a novel I bought when it was first published in February this year, and it’s another one that I wish I’d read earlier.
Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.
With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?
The Hoarder introduces the reader to some of the best characters I’ve come across in long time. Maud Drennan, our main protagonist, is a carer who has recently been assigned to Cathal Flood – a cantankerous old man whose once grand house is now covered in layer and layer of grime and the results of his hoarding. I loved Maud, and whereas Cathal has managed to scare off many other carers in a matter of days, Maud is no pushover and takes it all in her stride, beginning to clean the house and throwing away some of Cathal’s hoarded possessions. I loved the way that their (platonic) relationship, tense initially, develops over the course of the novel. Also of note is Renata, Maud’s neighbour, landlady and possibly her best (and only?) friend, and one of the most outrageous individuals you’ll come across. I don’t want to say too much about her as it really would spoil it, but she is fabulous.
There are two mysteries at the heart of The Hoarder, and both are fascinating. There is a tragic incident in Maud’s past in which her sister disappeared, an incident that Maud seems to have blocked from her memory, but that she is beginning to remember. I enjoyed the way that this was revealed in snippets as Maud came to remember the details around those events and what happened. There is also the mystery of a girl who went missing in the 80s which Maud seeks to uncover, much the annoyance of certain individuals who would rather the past remained forgotten. As Maud discovers more about the house and its owner, she begins to find little clues that help her unravel this mystery, as well as receiving a little supernatural help through some odd goings on at Bridlemere.
I’m not sure I’ve ever comes across a novel where the protagonist is haunted, for want of a better word, by saints who come and go at will. Whilst they are saints in appearance and name, they don’t behave quite as you might expect, making snarky comments and being a hindrance as much as a help. Having read this, I will never see St Valentine in quite the same light!
The Hoarder is a brilliant, quirky novel that is wholly original and I can’t recommend it enough. There’s a bit of mystery, some supernatural goings-on, and the saints help to offer some light relief, giving this novel a bit of everything. Kidd tells a fantastic story about characters that you really care about, and I’ll be picking up a copy of Kidd’s debut, Himself, on the strength of this novel. Published by Canongate, The Hoarder is available in digital and hardback formats, and the paperback will be published later this month with this gorgeous new cover.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐