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Case Histories: (Jackson Brodie) Paperback – 1 Jun 2005
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"Her best book yet, an astonishingly complex and moving literary detective story that made me sob but also snort with laughter. It's the sort of novel you have to start rereading the minute you've finished it" (Guardian)
"Sharp humour, together with a number of unexpected twists makes this a typically pacey and intelligent read" (Daily Mail)
"A greedy feast of a story by a masterful author...A profound, exciting and lingering read" (Daily Express)
"Triumphant...Her best book yet...A tragi-comedy for our times" (Sunday Telegraph)
"To read it is to enter a hall of mirrors...Part complex family drama, part mystery, it winds up having more depth and vividness than ordinary thrillers and more thrills than ordinary fiction...A wonderfully tricky book" (New York Times)
Cambridge is sweltering, during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, the world consists of one accounting sheet - lost on the left, found on the right - and the two never seem to balance. Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and has a failed marriage to prove it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected...See all Product description
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The plot centres around three crimes including a disappearing child, the senseless murder of a student and the murderous actions of a frustrated housewife. Needless to say, in the typical fashion of this writer things aren't always as clear as they seem and the three "plots" are tied together by the engaging character of Jackson Brodie, a somewhat put upon private detective. Ultimately there is not really a great deal of detective work that does on in this novel and Brodie is principally there to glue the three plots together whilst offering some wry and amusing observations at the same time. There is much to enjoy in this book and if it isn't quite as switched on as a piece of detective fiction as say Reginald Hill's excellent Dalziel and Pascoe novels, the pleasure of reading this book comes from encountering the panoply of interesting characters.
I quickly polished off this book but I felt it lacked the clout of the other three novels by Kate Atkinson I had read which basically knock the wind out of your sails when you have completed them. The longer narrative of these books plunge you in to an entire world whereas the Jackson Brodie book seems to follow a shorter trajectory. Like Hill, the book does have a few anachronisms which amusingly pick up on some cultural references of the 2000's however those reviewers alluding to this book being difficult are wide of the mark. Setting aside any reservations about some of the quite racy content of this novel, it is still a hugely enjoyable read.
The plot line involving attempts on Jackson Brodie's life is preposterous and one wonders whether Ms. Atkinson had her tongue firmly in her cheek while she pistol-whips him, tampers with his brakes and dynamites his house.
The hoho chuminess that threads through the three family tragedies didn't sit well with this reader. And you have to read the Laura Wyre story very, very carefully to figure out how Jackson came by the photograph of the yellow golfing sweater. We are left to guess what Laura's father did with the information.
BTW, the syndrome that Jackson can't remember, where the stalker imagines/insists that the stalkee is in love with him is De Clerambault's Syndrome (see Ian McEwen's "Enduring Love" for an extreme case) But . . the Jackson Brodie books are way better than Ms. Atkinson's "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" where the determined reader has to endure an interminable wait for something, ANYTHING - to happen
'Case Histories' is a story about three families, who all have 'cases'. There is Amelia and Julia, sisters of Olivia who went missing aged four. Then there's Theo, whose daughter, Laura, was killed in a seemingly mindless attack. Lastly, Michelle who kills her husband Keith. Her sister contacts Jackson to find her neice, Tanya. Jackson is a private detective and is contacted by these people to solve the crimes that the police haven't been able to.
The book started really well and I was gripped. I love Atkinson's writing style - she makes the tragic almost comic at times. I was eagerly waiting to find out what was going to happen as Jackson himself becomes a target. Easily my favourite character was Jackson's daughter!
Unfortunately, it fell down on a few areas. The outcome of the cases didn't seem worth it. I just thought 'oh.' I had expected the cases to be linked but they weren't really. Tanya seemed to be a kind of 'link' but this was extremely weak and contrived.
My other issues are only small ones but niggled me. Atkinson seems completely obsessed with sex and body parts. I'm not sure it was entirely necessary. Also, I really couldn't stand Julia or Amelia - they seemed very old fashioned. I could not see Jackson's attraction to either of them.
I did enjoy the book and will go on to read the rest in the series. I have pre-ordered her new book - Life After Life - which is a stand alone and looks fantastic. I hope her writing style continues to be as good.