Case Histories | Kate Atkinson | 2004
Living in Cambridge, ex-police inspector Jackson Brodie is in the midst of a growing list of mysteries – a missing child, a murdered daughter, a missing niece. Not to mention his ex-wife and his precociously dressed eight-year-old daughter. And his stern secretary who clearly believes he does no work at all as a private investigator.
This book does as it say on the cover – it outlines case histories before we’re introduced to Jackson Brodie, the main character. But, the case histories are so well told and the characters so well drawn, that each story is a pleasure.
This is my first Kate Atkinson book and it certainly won’t be the last. Her depiction of the characters is spot-on, with all the witty insecurities and comforting self-delusions wickedly portrayed. And, yet, at the heart of each story is a tragedy – Julia and Amelia’s sister goes missing as a five-year-old; Theo’s daughter is murdered in his office, the very place he thought she would be safest; and Shirley’s niece, who witnessed the axe murder of her father, has also gone missing. Oh, and there’s a whole other story that goes absolutely nowhere …
If you haven’t read Kate Atkinson, then this is a well worthwhile introduction to her style. Her acute observations will have you laughing out loud even as you sympathise with the long-term impacts of the complexities of childhood and family interactions. At the heart of each drama are the untruths and illusions that we blithely incorporate into our daily lives and, when they are unpicked by an external observer, reveal all.