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.