When Will There Be Good News?
Jackson Brodie #3
By Kate Atkinson
Back Bay Books 2010
From my shelves
When Joanna Mason is six years old, her life is shattered forever by a brutal crime and the loss of her family. Thirty years later, the murderer is released from prison. That same week, a sixteen year old girl named Reggie alerts Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe that her employer Dr. Hunter is missing under suspicious circumstances. Monroe is skeptical but agrees to investigate when Hunter's husband explains away the disappearance with lies. As Reggie worries about her employer and friend, Jackson Brodie boards a train that will take a fateful ride right through Reggie's neighborhood. These seemingly disparate story lines come together to create a book that readers will not want to put down.
While I would never ague that Atkinson can't write an excellent mystery, the best part of this book for me was the way in which old and new characters continued to surprise me. The novel opens with a horrific crime. The back of the book tells you this act will occur but I was so caught up with the fascinating characters being created before my eyes that I was truly shocked when it happened. We also meet up with Atkinson's characters Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe from earlier books. Although we have encountered them before, Atkinson puts them in situations that were completely unexpected. Their actions make sense for their characters, but it's wonderful to be surprised as a reader.
Each of the characters are struggling to find some semblance of happiness. Brodie has married (again) and while he should be content, he finds that his mind wanders constantly to Louise and the possibility that he has another child. While he was happy to leave the world of the soldier and the policeman and the private eye behind, he is still searching for some sort of purpose and finding himself terribly unsatisfied. Louise has married the seemingly perfect man who drives her absolutely insane. And then we are introduced to Reggie, the new heroine of this book. She is living a truly difficult life. Everyone in her family is either dead or involved in crime yet she soldiers on, trying to find some semblance of happiness with the Hunter family. Reggie is a wonderful character, full of pluck and determination. I think Atkinson could easily write another book about this charming waif who steals the book away from the other characters.
When Will There Be Good News? is a book that is impossible to easily categorize. It's a thrilling mystery involving mistaken identities, kidnapping, and murder. It's an insightful character study of people who get nothing they want but carry on and people who get everything they want and are miserable. At its most basic and important level, it's a really well-written book.