One of the early choices from my Fifty Unread Books has been Case Histories by Kate Atkinson bought years ago in an attempt to 'like' Jackson Brodie as much as everyone else, but sitting unread on the shelf ever since.
I am a fan of Kate Atkinson's writing...but can I say not a slavish one. I loved Behind the Scenes at the Museum but have had varying degrees of enjoyment from others, and still remain uncertain about Life After Life (to which I hear there will be a sequel.)...
Did Life After Life somehow outdo itself with the contortions and convolutions of plot...
Could it happily have shed some words...
Did that German/ Eva Braun episode really work..it didn't for me.
But overall I was pleased to have read it.
But there has been an enormous Jackson Brodie-sized gap in my amble through Kate Atkinson's oeuvre and I finally caved with Case Histories.
They adore Jackson Brodie at the Endsleigh Salon. He is a regular choice amongst our themed reads, being made to fit just about any subject it would seem. Looking back through my notebook I see he's popped up on Crime (obviously), Guilty Pleasures, and Festivals, and I gave him an outing for Watching the Detectives a while back too. There is always a chorus of admiration and shared love as the book is discussed so I am pleased to be able to join the party at last.
The setting for Case Histories is Cambridge, and as each of three crime events is described so the book is quickly peopled with a vast array of characters set in differing moments in time...1970, 1994, back to 1979 and with a latecomer in the book, but of great relevance a fourth case history set in 1971. Potential for confusion reigns as murders and disappearances prevail, though nothing like the confusion of Life After Life, and whether it's an age thing or not, I did have recourse to a self-compiled genogram to save me trying to hold all these people in my head.
Into the mix strolls the man himself...Jackson Brodie. Ex-policeman turned private investigator, a born-again smoker with the pre-requisite dysfunctional personal life...painful divorce, young daughter, past a bit of a muddle and a mess, with details slowly revealed as his character is constructed for the long haul, because there are three more books in the series after Case Histories.
The secrets start to seep out from each case history. People are not quite what they seem, and, as with all good detective novels, attempts at second-guessing fell flat as I became more and more engrossed. Kate Atkinson certainly knows how to keep her powder dry whilst upping the intrigue.Throwing in a few marker buoys for readers like me to cling on to, perhaps clues awaiting connections, I was on the alert at all times, or so I thought. I should have learned my lesson from Behind the Scenes at the Museum where a seeming trifle turns out to be a great big fat dollop of detail of huge import.
Slowly the connections appear, the case histories of the title start to weave their way towards each other in a generally very satisfying way, though the book's 2004 publication is slightly betrayed by some 2014 improbabilities (thinking about teachers and compulsory CRB checks maybe) but suspending disbelief I remained glued to the book to the final page.
This is fiction after all and I loved this one.
Maybe my big mistake was to dash straight into the next book in the series One Good Turn, which I had quickly bought along with the other two on the back of this success, When Will There Be Good News and Started Early, Took My Dog.
Set in Edinburgh during the August Festival, and with the Festival so much in the news Every Good Turn seemed like an ideal choice for some deckchair reading.
Time has moved on a little.
Jackson Brodie is now forty-seven and living in luxury in France with a new partner thanks to the unexpected denouement of Case Histories. I now know that our man is ex-army, ex police and ex-private investigator, though he will be hard pushed to keep any of that under wraps when he finds himself in the midst of a plot that involves a bout of road rage, a drowned woman, a rather feeble crime writer, an extrovert but less than successful festival performer, a business man in ITU on life support, an alluring female detective, some jerry-built homes, the frequent appearance of a baseball bat, a lot of muggings, drug-fuelled teenagers, rich women at literary events, and yes, the kitchen sink in the shape of a bogus cleaning company.
527 pages which I felt were a bit padded out with extraneous detail. and superfluous back story about the characters. The sort of detail that takes you miles from the action and where you really want to be, whilst seeming to add little to it, and sadly the book became a bit of a plod for me. The plot threads became diluted and stretched out, though still with a neat plot twist at the end. Don't let any of that put you off... detail might be exactly your sort of thing, I just wasn't in the mood for it, and I still think One Good Turn is a necessary read in the series to follow the events of our hero's life.