Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meet Jackson Brodie, my latest addiction.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson is a heck of a detective novel, the first in a series of novels featuring police inspector turned private detective, Jackson Brodie.  Set in Cambridge the novel introduces three separate tragedies Brodie has been hired to investigate.

Why it works so well?  Atkinson brings a different touch to the ubiquitous crime fiction genre. Brilliant, crystal clear writing helps, but she also engenders her characters with such humanity, all of them.  Unlike alot of crime fiction, these characters are skillfully drawn and aroused real empathy from this reader.  The focus is not on the nature of the crime, but the impact of the crime on those left behind.

The plot is also more satisfying than many crime novels I have read recently.  Atkinson links three apparently unrelated "case histories" through the personal story of the detective.  This works and left me with a sense of a beautiful whole by the end of the book.  It is the structure of the narrative that works so well.  In different ways Jackson becomes personally involved with his clients.  There are few clear lines between detective and victim here, the two spill into each other, and this overlapping of stories is for me what sets the novel apart, the themes emerge alot stronger.

Jackson is very engaging.  On the surface he shares many of the features of alot of his fictitious detective contemporaries: approaching middle age, a loner, broken marriage recently behind him, trying to find time to be a good father, favours a particular car, and has an easy way with the ladies.  We get to know Jackson through his reactions to those around him.  He is empathic, and accepting of human frailty, we learn later in the novel of the tragic circumstances in his own life that no doubt have contributed to this.

 For me, Case Histories is a definite winner, and has left me wanting to read the other three Jackson Brodie novels without delay.


  1. I look forward to each new Jackson Brodie book! I haven't been disappointed yet!

  2. You have such treats in store! These are sparky, compelling books, and Atkinson writes like a dream. I blogged last week after her latest (not giving anything away about the plot - though even if I had, it wouldn't make any difference as all the Brodie books stand alone in many ways).

  3. My husband is the mystery reader in our house; I will recommend this series to him, as he is always looking for something with an interesting detective character. Thanks!

  4. I have one Atkinson book in my TBR stack (When Will There Be Good News?) and, although it's not Case Histories, after reading your review, I'm anxious to read it. I used to read a lot of crime novels but after a while they began to blend together. So I was thrilled to read your comment that the plot is more satisfying than that of many other crime novels you've read. I think a blurring of the line between detective and victim is very real. I never understand when a detective's boss or a cop tells someone not to get personally involved with a is that possible?!

    I am very anxious to read about Jackson Brodie and his detective work. Thank you for a terrif review. I'm moving my Kate Atkinson book to the top of the stack!

  5. Marg and Deborah - I look forward to the others. So often with a series the quality varies, sounds like that is not the case with the Brodie books.

    TheBookGirl - I wholeheartedly recommend him giving this one a go. I, like your husband by the sounds of things, have read heaps of detective/crime fiction, this one does bring a refreshing difference.

    Amy - I can't wait to learn what you think of When Will There Be Good News. I have ordered One Good Turn, and hopefully it will arrive next week.


Comments are very welcome.