Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Case Histories

Case Histories
By Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown, and Company September 2008
310 pages
From my personal library...hooray

Jackson Brodie is a private detective attempting to juggle several cases. At the beginning of the novel, the reader is presented with three stories. In the first, a young girl goes missing after she and her sister camp out in the backyard in a tent. In the next, a young woman is murdered while interning in her father’s office. In the third, a young woman goes to prison for murdering her husband with an axe in view of their baby girl. As Jackson becomes makes progress in the cases, he discovers that they are more connected than he could have ever imagined.

This novel is a mystery, but more importantly it is a story about the people who are left behind after tragedy. While Jackson does investigate the crimes, he also provides compassion and understanding for the survivors.  He empathizes with his clients because he too has experienced loss when his older sister was brutally raped and murdered. His kindness and his attempt to be a good father are his strong points, but our hero is very much flawed. He can’t stop fantasizing about the women he encounters and he is terrified that his ex-wife and the new man in her life will take his daughter away from him. He thinks that "she wouldn't be the same Marlee in twelve months' time: she would have different skin and different hair, she would have outgrown the shoes and the clothes she was wearing, she would have new buzzwords (New Zealand words), and she might not like Harry Potter anymore. But she would still be Marlee. She just wouldn't be the same." 

The thing I found most fascinating about this novel is the way that so many of the characters sit on the edge of likeability. I found myself often thinking that I didn’t really like many of the characters. In spite of this, I had a very serious need to find out what happened to them and how they were connected. These are very deeply injured people whose lives have been destroyed. The wreckage is not pretty, but Ms. Atkinson portrays it with compassion and sometimes humor.

This is a really interesting novel. I went back and forth trying to decide if I liked it or not. At times, I was not particularly enthusiastic about continuing. I think that’s because there is little imminent danger. These cases are cold and their resolution will likely not change anything in the present. I’m glad I stuck with it, though. The mysteries are wrapped up by the end, some more predictably than others. The characters will make you uncomfortable, make you wince, and make you think about putting this book down, but ultimately this is a good book. I will warn that it takes some time to get used to the peculiarities of the novel, the style, and the characters.

This is the first Jackson Brodie novel, and the first book I have read by this author. I somehow already own the third book, so I will be searching out the second. Atkinson is a good writer, with interesting style and quirks. While Case Histories takes some time to get comfortable with, it’s worth the read. 

Friends, as you read this I am on my way to the wonderful state of Maryland. Why is it so wonderful, you ask? Why, it's because my bestest friend Becca lives there. I will be visiting her today and Saturday (husbands included). Then on Sunday, there will be church and a hymn sing with a potluck. Try not to be too jealous... 
Have an amazing weekend, friends. I'll be back on Monday. See you then! 

1 comment:

  1. This book has never appealed to me because I am not a mystery reader, so I'm glad to see it is about more than just that....