Himself is the story of Mahony, a unique young man in 1970s Ireland. Mahony has recently traveled to Mulderrig, a small town, to find out the truth about what happened to his biological mother before he was surrendered to an orphanage in Dublin. He has reason to believe that there was foul play involved and is determined to find the truth, though the town seems just as determined to stop him from finding it.
This was not my usual read. I requested it from Netgalley because something about it piqued my interest. I’m always interested in things set in Ireland, as it’s basically the biggest bucket list destination for me (my grandfather grew up there). The story also sounded intriguing, and it turned out to be so. The mystery is a bit of a slow burn, and this book was not a high-action thriller by any means (though there are moments that are action-oriented). Instead, it’s more the story of Mahony and what his arrival means for the town of Mulderrig, which is a town that doesn’t tolerate those outside of the norm and does not want to be reminded of Mahony’s mother Orla.
As Mahony immerses himself in the town of Mulderrig, the reader is treated to portraits of the varied townspeople. Many of these characters are extremely well-developed, and no one is above suspicion when it comes to the mystery around Orla’s possible disappearance. Some of the older women in town aid Mahony in his quest, while others are less eager and conspire instead to get Mahony to leave. At turns, I found myself laughing out loud at Mrs. Cauley, an older woman who helps Mahony (and is a bit scandalous at times), and also smirking triumphantly when characters who pretend to be morally upstanding get their comeuppance.
There is another aspect of this book that adds to the mystery and the atmosphere, but I’m not going to spoil it for you here. I didn’t know until I read the book and I found it was an odd but pleasant surprise. Just know it contributes to an sense of otherworldliness, and adds another layer of mystery to Orla’s life and disappearance, as do chapters that flit back to show her life and fill in more of the mystery for us as readers (or create more questions).
The town here is just as much a character as the people who make it up, and you get the sense that a picturesque place is not so kind or friendly. It reminds me of books that set up small town Americas something dark and shady. Overall, I recommend this book for those who like mysteries and appreciate Ireland and its myths. It’s quite a nice novel and I really enjoyed it. Superb writing, a slow burn of a mystery, and some interesting surprises make for a great read.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What other novels set in Ireland do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!