Big Sky by Kate Atkinson
Years ago I read When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson, a book with a lovely cover of a child running in sunshine through a field of hay. Idyllic. But, it is far from an idyllic story, and in fact the book begins with a very shocking event. It was, though, a great mystery novel, with a wonderful cast of characters, including Jackson Brody, who I discovered was also featured in two earlier novels, Case Histories and One Good Turn, and subsequently in Started Early, Took My Dog, and now in the 5th in the series, Big Sky. I have loved reading every one of them.
Kate Atkinson is well known for her literary fiction, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and more recently Life After Life, A God in Ruins, and Transcription. So, we have a writer of literary fiction writing a murder mystery series, and they are very good indeed!
Big Sky opens with a couple rushing off, she in a wedding gown. Then they are gone. We are now introduced to a man who is encouraging a couple of young girls, sisters from Eastern Europe, to come to work in England – an opportunity to work in a good hotel and a better future than they have now. Of course, we discover it is not at all what it seems – something the unfortunate girls will discover only after their arrival in England.
Then we meet Jackson Brodie, and his son, Nathan. Jackson is a part time father and fulltime detective. He enjoys time spent with his son, and the dog that comes along with him when he visits.
At the Belvedere Golf Club we meet Thomas Holroyd, Andrew Bragg and Vincent Ives. And the novel is now well on its way, as the relationships between these men is revealed, and their wives are introduced to us. We discover the secrets that some of them would like to bury forever, and we come to like some of these people very much – and others we suspect may be the bad guys.
This is a tale of cruelty and desperation, and redemption and justice and revenge. We meet a woman who has left her past behind and finds herself the stepmother of a teenager and her own young daughter, both of whom she would fight for to the death. There is a husband deprived of his home – and his dog – in a bitter separation dispute – reduced to living above a chip shop and lugging his dirty clothes through the streets to the laundry. There is the arcade with its tired old shows of drag queens and ventriloquists.
Big Sky is so full of characters both good and evil that at times you may wonder where they all fit in the big scheme of things – just know that they do. You will also find, if you have read the other Jackson Brodie books, that there are some characters who seem familiar – and that is because we have indeed met them before in earlier novels. And yet, it does not matter at all if you have read the earlier books, as there is enough of the important things about Jackson Brodie’s past filled in that Big Sky can be read as a one off – but you will definitely want to read the earlier books in the series when you have finished this one!