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Case Histories by Kate Atkinson


Case Histories by Kate Atkinso

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. Well, I don’t think They have read a novel by Kate Atkinson.

I read her most recent novel When Will There Be Good News several months ago and thought it was one of the best books I had read in a long time – well written – total escape.  Feeling the need for an escape again recently I read her first book to feature ex-policeman, now private investigator, Jackson Brodie.

Kate Atkinson burst on the literary scene in 1995 when her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the coveted British Whitbread Book of the Year Award. She has written several books in the past fourteen years, the most recent three the literary mysteries featuring Jackson Brodie.

In Case Histories we meet Jackson Brodie for the first time. It is 2004, the year this book was published. Jackson is recently divorced, his young daughter now living with her mother and the mothers new husband. Jackson runs a small private investigation business, following errant spouses and any other case that comes his way. Jackson himself has lived with tragedy so he knows how his clients feel when dealing with their own tragedies. The tragedy in Brodie’s past is gradually revealed as the novel progresses.

We begin in the heat wave of the summer of 1970, with the Land family. Professor Dad and pregnant – again – Mum, and the daughters. The youngest is Olivia – the perfect – best loved child – who goes missing. Never to be found. All these years later this case will become one for Brodie to solve – or not.

We then meet Theo, in the summer of 1994. Theo, and his daughter Laura, the best loved of his two daughters. Laura is killed in a seemingly random act of violence – the case never solved.

Case History No. 3 is Michelle. She is suffering from severe post-partum depression. Her husband is murdered with an axe.

All of these cases surface again in 2004 as Jackson Brodie is drawn into them one by one. Each case involves the personal tragedy of the people involved. And yes, I know they are simply characters in a book, but I challenge any reader not to be touched by their grief. Jackson Brodie is a compelling character and the book is an absorbing “page turner” of the very best sort.

There is no doubt that Kate Atkinson is an eccentric writer. There are serious subjects in this novel but there is also very strong wacky humour amidst the honesty of acknowledging our very human frailties. 

It is always a challenge to review a mystery novel, as I do not want to reveal too much and spoil your enjoyment of the suspense. This book will provide escape, provoking thought about life’s big issues, and the satisfaction of experiencing a very good read.

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