Case Histories Hardcover – 1 Sep 2004
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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--hasnt 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 WeeklySee 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.
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