Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

I have reserved ‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson which is currently on order at the library, so just in case I don’t get a chance to read it before the Women’s Prize for Fiction event at the Southbank Centre in June, I thought I would read the first of the Jackson Brodie novels, ‘Case Histories’, to get a feel for Atkinson’s writing.   Jackson Brodie, a former police inspector turned private investigator , is working on three apparently separate cold cases in the Cambridge area – the disappearance of a three year old girl in the 1970s, the murder of a solicitor’s daughter and another murder after a domestic incident between husband and wife.  These crimes all turn out to be linked – but how?

Atkinson is very good at maintaining suspense particularly when it is later revealed that Jackson has a few dark family secrets of his own which makes the story extra compelling.  I also liked her character observations and the dry humour in Atkinson’s writing.  Although ‘Case Histories’ is a crime novel, it is the relationships which remain at the heart of it and the story is driven mostly by the characters rather than intricate plot details.  Generally, I thought this was a good thing but more emphasis on plot might have strengthened the book as a whole as I thought Case No. 3 was neglected a bit.  Overall, Atkinson weaves together the different stories quite nicely so that the chopping and changing between the cases didn’t feel too awkward.  However, I was expecting a more definitive link between the three crimes than there actually turned out to be in the end which was a little disappointing.  

‘Case Histories’ is a good read if you are looking for a novel that is neither too challenging nor too light and fluffy.  I can’t say I was particularly bowled over by Atkinson’s writing in terms of literary style but I did enjoy ‘Case Histories’ and look forward to reading ‘Life After Life’ when it becomes available.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

  1. If you want a really good Kate Atkinson book, try Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Crime is generally my least favourite fiction but she writes so well that I quite like her detective ones, but that’s truly fantastic. I can’t wait to read Life after Life.

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  2. The Brodie books are very different from the rest of Atkinson’s output. I think you will find ‘Life After Life’ much more satisfying.

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  3. I bought the kindle version and couldn’t put it down. One of my favourite books this year !

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  4. Atkinson is one of my favourite authors and I’ve encountered quite a few people who didn’t enjoy the Jackson Brodie series but adored her non-Jackson novels. Life After Life is very complex and very different from Case Histories, but I think they’re both good in their different genres.

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  5. It sounds like a good popcorn read!

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  6. Hello, I’ve recently read this one too and agree with your review. It was a nice enough read but not enough of a mystery/thriller for me and more about his relationship with those crazy sisters. I loved Behind the Scenes at the Museum though.

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  7. I think there is such a difference between Atkinson’s Brodie novels and her non-Brodie ones. To really appreciate her I think you need to read the non-Brodie, particularly Behind the Scenes at the Museum which is completely amazing. I hope you enjoy Life After Life, I’m about to read it too!

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  8. My thoughts exactly about “Case Histories.” Intriguing to start, great atmosphere, but the solution left a lot to be desired. Thanks to all posters for suggestions about Atkinson’s other novels–look forward to reading them!

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  9. Pingback: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  10. I enjoy the Case Histories series but was not enamoured by Life after Life. It took me a while to get into that story and the ending left a lot to be desired for me. I enjoy Atkinson’s books to a degree, but don’t find her very consistent. 🙂

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  11. Now I thought ” Life After Life ” was superb. Admittedly, the linguistic tricks and repetitions are a bit awkward at first, but I thought the idea, and the overall structure was wonderful and engaging- so much so, I put a review on my blog. This was the first Atkinson I had read, so I’ll have to work backwards through the rest of the oeuvre.

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