This post is a uber review of the three latest Jackson Brodie novels by Kate Atkinson. After finishing Case Histories I deliberately paced out purchasing the next book, but after that I was a goner and I just tore through the rest. One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog are stand alone whodunnits, each has its own mystery to solve and its own particular voice and character. However all have Jackson Brodie as an essential but supporting character: ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective.
One Good Turn is set in summer, the Edinburgh Festival, a madness grips the city: a queue of people for a lunch-time show witness a homicidal road-rage incident which turns out just to be the first in a mounting body count. When Will There Be Good News? opens in a quiet corner of rural Devon where a girl witnesses an unspeakable crime; 30 years later the man convicted is about to be released and Jackson is hurtling towards Scotland again about to be embroiled in the hunt for another missing woman. In Started Early, Took My Dog Jackson returns to his roots in Yorkshire, looking for someone else’s, intersecting with an ex-cop’s shocking impulse purchase, and an ageing actress teetering on the brink.
So each book has its own particular context and reason for involving Jackson Brodie in some mystery or injustice. Chapters alternate first person perspective between Jackson and other characters, slowly revealing the facts and the unknowns of the plot. As they layers build, I did wonder while reading each of these books quite how it was all going to come together – then Atkinson just hits you with her genius eye for detail and wit. They are immensely satisfying reads.
However I do believe that the second book, One Good Turn, is not quite as strong as the others. Books one, three and four all had me utterly immersed and while book two is good, the particular starring characters’ voices outside of Jackson were not as engrossing for me. That being said, now knowing how these books build up upon one another, I am grateful for some of the continuing characters it introduced.
These detective novels capture odd stories of our strange times. They are genuine mysteries; genius plotting and thrillingly addictive. They are also that rare combination of literary novel and cracking holiday read. Atkinson’s writing is intelligent, exuberant, kind, and witty. It is so great to have a real crime drama that also warms your heart.
Pleasingly, as soon as I had finished the fourth novel, a quick Google told me that a fifth Jackson Brodie novel called Big Sky is due for release in June this year. The countdown is on.