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.


Filed under Books

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.


  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.


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


  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.


  5. It sounds like a good popcorn read!


  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.


  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!


  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!


  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. 🙂


  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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