I must admit that I am a fan of Kate Atkinson's style, so despite being a little put off by the "crime novel" tag (a genre which in general I cannot enjoy at all), I anticipated great things for this book. I was not disappointed in the least. It's very easy to give out 5 stars for everything you liked, but here I feel the novel really does deserve those 5 stars.
Although the book conforms loosely to a crime novel setup, the emphasis is, as always, on the unique quirks and foibles of the characters and the innate humanity of people. One gets the feeling that Kate Atkinson's plots, deliciously tangled and convoluted as they are, are vehicles for exploring character, response to events and development.
This particular novel is set up to read like a police file, with several unsolved cases linked by the main protagonist, Jackson Brodie. In all her novels, I have found that the main characters are a little bit transparent and lacking a particularly strong personality of their own, and Jackson Brodie is no exception. However, in my opinion this does not detract from the quality of the novel, as the multitude of minor characters serve to liven the story and "bounce off" the main character.
The style is definitely an acquired taste, but for those who like their books stuffed full of lively prose, small yet razor-sharp observations, a wry turn of phrase and a unique downbeat, deadpan and very black humour, I cannot recommend it enough.