Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

review by Maryom

Jackson Brodie, ex- police inspector turned private detective, has three old Case Histories on his hands: - in 1970, after spending the night sleeping out in their garden in a tent with her older sister, 3 year old Olivia goes missing.Despite a police search there are no clues as to what occurred until many years later when amongst their recently deceased father's belongings her sisters Amelia and Julia discover Olivia's favourite toy, Blue Mouse, believed to have disappeared with her ; - in 1979, Michelle, a young mother kills her husband. While in jail she cuts off all contact with her family but now her sister Shirley is trying to trace her and her now grown-up baby ; - and in1994 teenager Laura Wyre was helping out in her father's office and murdered seemingly at random by a knife-wielding man who was never caught. Her father Theo has tried for 10 years to track down the culprit but with no success and has now decided to enlist the help of Jackson Brodie.
Jackson also has several missing cats to trace and an airhostess, believed by her husband to be having an affair, to follow. And if he can find time, there's his relationship with his ex-wife to sort out ... and someone intent on causing him grievous bodily harm, perhaps even trying to kill him!

That's a tremendous number of storylines to juggle and keep all up in the air but Kate Atkinson pulls it off with seeming ease. Actually the movements of a folk dance might be a better comparison - the plots move along together, then separate and circle round before coming together again. At the centre of them all is Jackson Brodie, sometimes seeming bemused by all the things happening around him, sometimes feeling like he's the one calling out the moves.

It's taken me a long while to get round to reading this, the first of the Jackson Brodie novels. I didn't read Case Histories when it first came out but jumped into the series at book 2, One Good Turn, and then bought the third, When Will There Be Good News? Having seen the TV adaptation, I determined to go back and read the whole series in order but at the time the library was overwhelmed by demand for Case Histories. I was reminded of my plan when I read about Subtle Melodrama's Scottish Summer reading challenge and, although I'm not absolutely sure that it qualifies, decided to revive it. So I'll soon be reading the two books I own and hopefully have time to borrow the fourth, Started Early, Took My Dog, before the challenge ends.

As with so many TV/film adaptations various things had been changed and moved around - I was very surprised to discover that Case Histories is NOT set in Edinburgh  - but much further south in Cambridge. It also seemed far darker than its TV counterpart being more of an exploration of loss and guilt that a simple whodunnit. A compelling read whether you've seen the TV version or not. I'm off now to read the rest of Jackson's story...

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre - crime, adult fiction, TV tie-in

Buy Case Histories: (Jackson Brodie) from Amazon

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