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Case Histories Hardcover – 1 Sep 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385607997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385607995
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her latest novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women's (formerly Orange) Prize, the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Award, and won the 2014 Costa Novel Award. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List, and was voted Waterstones UK Author of the Year at the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards.

Photography © Martin Hunter

Product Description

Amazon Review

Case Histories continues a winning streak for Kate Atkinson which began when her impressive novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the Whitbread First Novel Award. Since that book, Atkinson has gleaned a keen following of readers who are prepared to follow in the surprising directions the unpredictable author takes us on. And Atkinson--so far--hasn’t let us down.

The perfectly judged prose that distinguished Human Croquet is fully in evidence in Case Histories, and a new frisson here comes from the genre-stretching that Atkinson is indulging in. In some ways, this book could almost be seen as a new take on the crime novel (not the first genre one would expect the author to tackle), but the crime elements here Atkinson uses are peripheral. The protagonist here is a former police inspector who now makes a living as a private investigator. Jackson Brodie is making ends meet in a sweaty Cambridge summer and trying to deal with his own failed marriage. But if his life is adrift, perhaps Brodie can justify his existence via his belief that he can do some good for the people he encounters in his job. But he is to find that he will be irrevocably changed by those he is trying to help.

As a vividly created cast of characters surround the beleaguered Brodie, all the novelistic skills that shone in Atkinson's earlier books are fully in play. Those deluded into thinking they've picked up something resembling a standard private eye novel will find something much more rich and strange; Atkinson goes from strength to strength.--Barry Forshaw


'Not just the best novel I read this year...but the best mystery of the decade.' -- Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By "beruthiel" on 25 Sep 2004
Format: Hardcover
I love Kate Atkinson's work and this is no exception.
The novel centres around four 'Case Histories', the threads of which are brought together by Jackson, a detective living in present day Cambridge.
Each of the Case Histories occur at a different point in history; a 3 year old girl goes missing from a back garden in 1970 and is never found, a beloved 18 year old daughter is murdered in 1994, a harassed wife kills her husband in 1979 and the final case concerns some revelatory truths about Jackson's family.
Jackson meanders passively through the novel with relatives involved in each of the cases coming to him for help. He seems somewhat bewildered throughout the novel and he is the only character I didn't really feel that I got to know.
Kate Atkinson's prose is lovely and she has the knack of creating suspense, she moves us around in time almost creating cliffhangers so we are dying to know what happens next. Her characters are all mostly sympathetic and the tragedy in their lives makes you, on occasion, ache for them. You do get the impression that the purpose and drive they employ in trying to gain closure from these events in their histories is often an excuse to not get to grips with the other problems in their lives, be it weight problems, overcoming inhibitions in an uptight personality, or finding love. The threads of the cases are tied up somwhat neatly at the end, leaving a satisfying conclusion.
All in all, it's a great read and I recommend it to everyone!
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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 11 Dec 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jackson Brodie, a private detective, is investigating three old cases, which soon begin to converge and overlap. Three-year-old Olivia Land disappeared without a trace thirty-five years ago while sleeping outside with one of her sisters, two of whom have hired Jackson to find out what happened. Theo Wyre has hired him to investigate the death of his daughter Laura Wyre, who was killed by a maniac ten years before while working in her father's office. Shirley Morrison, Jackson's third client, is trying to locate her sister and her niece. Her sister Michelle, living with her husband and young daughter on an isolated farm, has vanished from Shirley's life, and after twenty-five years, Shirley wants to find her.
Atkinson's suspenseful and dramatic cases pique the reader's interest in the characters and their lives, especially the female characters. All have faced traumatic events and suffered through less than ideal childhoods, which unfold inexorably as the cases become more complex. Not a linear narrative, the novel focuses on different characters in successive chapters, moving back and forth in time to provide background and to set up the overlaps which eventually occur. The characters are sometimes bizarre, baffling, and even unsympathetic, but they are always memorable for their behavior and their justifications for it.
Filled with ironies and noir humor, the novel also reveals Atkinson's astute observation of social interactions, as she skewers some aspects of her characters' lives while also creating sympathy for them. While the first two case histories-that of the missing Olivia and the murdered Laura-are genuinely sad and regarded overall as tragedies, the story of Michelle Fletcher, and peripherally, her sister Shirley, is much darker.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John E. Davidson on 1 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
It has been a long time (too long) since a novel grabbed my attention on the first page and did not let go until the end. This book did.

Three stories (case histories) about loss are brought together around a central character; Jackson Brodie, an ex-policeman turned private investigator who starts to investigate the three old cases.

It is beautifully written with very strong characterisation: a wonderful mix of touching (sometimes genuinely moving) and funny. As an exercise in genre busting it is very interesting: it is only nominally a crime novel, although the crime elements are well handled, it is much more interested in the characters. All the threads are well handled but the story of the family of girls and their overbearing academic (worse, mathematician) father is particularly strong as is the story of the father losing the favourite daughter.

The book is not perfect. For me, the biggest weakness was the main protagonist Jackson Brodie: he is well enough drawn to drive the plot forward but, for me, he is never a wholly convincing character. Towards the end of the book Aktinson adopts a slightly odd narrative structure (she gets away with it) and the ending is rather too neat and happy for my tastes.

However, this is still the best novel that I have read is a (very) long time, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Now I'm off to read her other books.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By "lady_oracle" on 5 Aug 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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