Little Brown, 2004
Fiction; 310 pgs
Rating: (Very Good)
First Sentence: How lucky were they?
Where Book Came From: I first learned about this book through Pages magazine and suddenly was seeing the title pop up frequently this past year in several different online book groups. I purchased my copy of the book in April of 2005, with every intent of reading it sooner.
Reason for Reading It Now: 1st of my 2007 TBR Challenge selections.
Comments: I made the mistake of reading a synopsis of a follow-up book, One Good Turn, while in the middle of Case Histories. Although the synopsis did not give any of the major plot points away in regards to Case Histories, I did discover a couple of extraneous details that might have been better left unknown until the end. Just the same, it did not take away from my enjoyment of this beautifully crafted novel.
Its praises have been sung by many of my fellow booklovers, but I had no idea what I was in for when I began reading Kate Atkinson’s novel. It rose above my expectations. At times comical, while all the while being serious, the novel had an edge to it that I had not anticipated. It was gritty without quite coming off as such.
Jackson Brodie, formerly a police inspector, earns his living as a private investigator in Cambridge, England. When readers are first introduced to Jackson, he is following a woman whose husband suspects that she is having an affair. It’s a typical sort of case and Jackson finds himself pondering his own life, his 8-year-old daughter and his failed marriage.
When Jackson is asked to look into the disappearance of Olivia Land by her two sisters, Amelia and Julia, he does not see much hope in finding new answers. The two women could not be more different from one another. Amelia is the rather plain and more responsible sister while Julia is a bit more reckless and free living. Olivia, a young child at the time, had disappeared one night 34 years ago never to be seen or heard from again. The discovery of Olivia’s favorite toy, Blue Mouse, among their father’s things after his death, raise questions the sisters want answered.
Then there is Theo Wyre, a father who still has not gotten over the death of his youngest daughter ten years before. Hoping to find some resolution, he hires Jackson Brodie to look into his daughter’s murder. On that fateful day 10 years ago, Laura had been starting a new temporary job at her father’s law office. Her throat was slashed by an unknown assailant in a yellow golf sweater. His identity and whereabouts were never discovered.
Shirley Morrison, the sister of a woman convicted of killing her husband with an axe, comes to Jackson in hopes of discovering the whereabouts of her niece, a child she had promised to take care of but had put into the care of the murdered father’s parents because she knew she couldn’t do it on her own at so young an age.
Kate Atkinson pulls all of these stories together in unexpected ways. Her cast of characters are colorful and yet shadowed by their life experiences, making them even more intriguing. The novel did include some backtracking now and then, the author telling one person’s story and then in the next section going over it from another character’s experience so that no parts of the story were missed. It could have been ackward and confusing, but Kate Atkinson successfully pulled it off.
Overall, I found Case Histories to be a delightful novel. The characters came to life for me right out of the pages and the msysteries involving the characters were captivating. I had a hard time setting this book aside for sleep and to go to work. I cannot help by ask myself why waited so long to read this book. I definitely plan to read more by this author.
Favorite Part: Although it’s not uncommon in novels, parents dragging their children along with them while the work for lack of better options, I have to say that I most enjoyed the way Kate Atkinson included Marlee in on the investigation. I quite enjoyed the interactions between Marlee and her father. I was least impressed with Josie, Marlee’s mother and Jackson’s ex-wife, who annoyed me on a couple of occasions during the novel.
Note about the Author: Kate Atkinson's first novel was Behind the Scenes at the Museum which won the Whitbread Prize in 1995, an unexpected winner over works by Salman Rushdie and Roy Jenkins. Kate Atkinson’s Top Ten list.
Miscellaneous: Thank you to Bookfool for the lovely tote! It arrived in yesterday’s mail. For those curious, it is a William Shakespeare tote from Barnes and Noble. You know, the one I’m always eyeing whenever I’m in the store.