Case Histories – Kate Atkinson

This is the first book in the Jackson Brodie series, and whilst I have read subsequent ones, and they stand alone nicely, reading the first book does fill you in on some of the background when it comes to Jackson Brodie and his past.

The reader in the first 70 pages we are shown three stories, case histories if you will all about missing or lost girls. First is Olivia Land, sleeping outside in the tent with one of her three sisters during the hot summer of 1970 when Amelia wakes up Olivia cannot be found.

Secondly, Theo loves his daughter Laura more than he can say, more in fact than her sister Jennifer. Whilst Laura awaits her A Level results in 1994 and her future at university, she pleases her father by going to work at his solicitor’s office. But her first day there becomes her last on earth.

Thirdly and finally, there is Michelle, 18 years old in 1979, recently married and also having given birth, Michelle is trying to beat time, and she gets up earlier to juggle everything in her life, a life that she did not really plan for.

Nothing inextricably links these stories apart from one thing Jackson Brodie, ex army, ex police inspector, ex husband but not an ex private detective.  Those from the past of these three case histories contact Jackson hoping that he can provide answers, in fact provide those that are missing or lost.

Jackson is the key to bringing closure and along the way all these case histories intertwine. We see how Jackson deals with all those he comes into contact with, including those in his personal life, Julia his ex-wife and Marlee his daughter. Marlee is important to Jackson, as he looks at these cases which all feature lost or missing women, how would he cope if something happened to Marlee? This angle brings the personal touch to the private detective; it is not always just about the cases.

A book that does not stand still for very long, if at all, it moves between past and present, between characters in the various different cases until all background and present information is filled in for the reader. This is surprisingly unproblematic to read, as all it does is keep you gripped as you turn the page to find out the truth and find out who exactly everyone is with plenty of twist along the way.

A good introduction to Kate Atkinson and well worth a read even if crime novels are not “your thing” because this is rather different from your average, blood and guts whodunit, Atkinson does not always tie up every end there is always something left making you think.

Only a few days ago I saw the BBC trailer for the television adaptation of this book was going to be ‘coming soon’ to BBC1. In fact it is coming on Sunday 5 June at 9pm. (Thank goodness, because ITV’s alternative Scott and Bailey left a lot to be desired!). From looking on Kate Atkinson’s website  the programme has been created from three of her ‘Brodie’ novels, this one, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News. They have taken these three books and created 6 episodes, 2 for each book the story concludes on the Monday night at 9pm also.

Which makes me think that as I have not read One Good Turn, I may have time to read it after all and even better it is on my shelf to be read as well! 

I direct you to the BBC website, where there is plenty of interviews and background to Case Histories. Jackson Brodie is to be played by Jason Isaccs who has played Jackson on the audio books. He is interviewed here along with a script to screen and director interviews. There is also focus on what they call ‘Jackson’s Women’, if you have read any of Atkinson’s books you will know that women characters feature heavily. This is an observation not as many reviewers feel a drawback, in fact I did not give it any though until I read about it.

I wait and see what this programme is like and as the book will be fresh in my mind, I may well comment back here next week after it is broadcast.

Anyway, back to this book. It is a good way to start reading Atkinson books, and I was a little concerned as I had a bad experience reading Emotionally Weird which is not a Jackson Brodie book. Kate Atkinson has some skill in writing a crime novel that to me is not really a crime novel but something much more. There is wit and humour as well as sadness in the book, and the character of Jackson is somewhat flawed but he always seems to be able to be brough to task by his ex-wife and more importantly his daughter Marlee. A child who loves her father but is very perceptive about him and worries about him, even though she ends up with dead dogs, an urn full of ashes and learning a smattering of Russian!

This book although on my self long before I knew it was going to be adapted into a TV programme has really given me a taste for reading again. Quite difficult to explain, but I had felt as I have mentioned in a previous post that I had too much choice, and I did not know whether I was coming or going. Now having read this, I know exactly where I am, I look at my shelves and think of all the gems I have yet to read but are just waiting there for me! That is without all the gems on my kindle as well! How lovely, and I am off to escape into another book right now….


The Worst Witch and The Worst Witch Strikes Again – Jill Murphy

I have ventured back into childhood books and if you have been following me for a while, then I have also shown a penchant for ‘school’ stories. Before Harry Potter there was Mildred Hubble…..

Created by the wonderful author Jill Murphy. Murphy also illustrates these simple witchy school stories. Simple but actually with wit and morals as all children’s stories should be?

Mildred Hubble is back at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, she is disaster prone, getting spells wrong, her potions muddled up and forever getting into trouble with Miss Hardbroom her form mistress. Mildred does not make things happen, things happen and Mildred seems to be there!

In the first book The Worst Witch (1974) Mildred turns her enemy, Ethel  into a pig, her potion test goes wrong and the formation broomstick team to celebrate Halloween comes crashing down to earth. When she decides that perhaps the academy is not for her, she stumbles across a plot on the school and Mildred saves the day!

Back for the summer term in The Worst Witch Strikes Again (1980) Mildred is asked to look after the new girl,Enid  but is she as quite as she seems, disaster now follows them around now. Mildred’s friend Maud is put out by her having to look after the new girl so takes up with Ethel, Mildred’s enemy from the previous term.

We have out of tune singing, monkeys and a last-minute “double broomstick display on a solo broomstick” but if you know Mildred then all though disaster seems to be around every corner, Mildred scrapes through another term.

Enid Nightshade, Mildred Hubble, Maud Moonshine

This is the first two books in a series of six. I cannot remember if I have read any more of  these, I remember these quite vividly and the wonderful illustrations just brought all the characters to life from the descriptions that Jill Murphy gives us.

Mildred was tall and thin with long plaits…while Maud was short and tubby, had round glasses and wore her hair in bunches…Enid was a tall girl, even taller than Mildred…with big hands and…colour of milky tea…into a long, thick plait.

I have the next two to read, A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch (1982)  and The Worst Witch All At Sea (1993) but will have to look out for the two after that The Worst Witch Saves the Day (2005) and The Worst Witch to the Rescue (2007).

They are obviously quick easy reads for an adult, but they are books I would love to share with a young person because to share something that I have read and enjoyed would be immense fun. Plus I would like to remind everyone that witches and schools does not all start and begin with that little boy wizard. You could say these were the forerunner and perhaps J.K.Rowling read them to her daughter and an idea was born.


The Winter Garden Mystery – Carola Dunn

Daisy is back and the is continuing to be something of a social outcast among her own – by being independent and having her own career and life, much to the disappoint of her mother, to Phillip Petrie a friend of her dead brother’s who is rather sweet on her and proposes on a number of occasions. And then there is Lady Valeria the matriarch of the house Occles Hall where Daisy is writing about for Town and Country. Daisy’s way of life is not something Lady Valeria wants her own children exposed to but then she does not reckon on Daisy’s influence.

If you have read the first novel and get the premise of these books then you know that murder will not be far behind Daisy in fact in this case it is under an Azalea bush in the Winter Garden of the estate. And the body belongs to a missing parlour maid, Grace who was thought to have run off with a travelling salesman. A parlour maid with a varied life. The gardener who discovers the body in fact digs it up is Owen Morgan who she was stepping out with and her father Stan Moss, the local blacksmith  has a rather long running argument and petty squabbles with Lady Valeria which everyone knows about. Could a motive be obvious from early on in the book?

The local police do an inefficient job due to the almost ogre like quality of Lady Valeria, a well constructed character who you could see exploding off the page; they do not want to upset her. They arrest Own Morgan her Welsh Beau and that is the end of the matter. Daisy is not happy she knows he did not do it, but has no proof and the only person she can think of to help is Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard who she first surreptitiously helped in the first book.

And so the double act of Alec and Daisy begin an investigation, with Alec asking Daisy to step back and Daisy getting ever more involved in helping solve the crime. Along the way, other secrets are discovered about residents of Occles Hall and the moving times of 1923 are showing a much more tolerant and perhaps forward thinking upper class, but then again they may not have run into Lady Valeria!

A good second book in the series and will be easy passage to the third book as Daisy will continue to pitch up where something amiss is going to take place, then the dashing Alec will have to help her if only to stop her meddling and making his life difficult in Scotland Yard. Great escapism, imagine Miss Marple before she became the knitting sleuthing genius and you will find fondness for Miss Daisy Dalrymple.

Can I just say that the cover is awful, and I think, no in fact I know I would never have picked it up if it was not for the fact that I knew what I was getting inside of it. Not sure what it is, but to me this is not what Miss Daisy Dalrymple looks like.  She looks rather like a porcelain doll that would eventually come up on the Antiques Roadshow for value. Then again I am not sure about this one either

Though a slight improvement on the edition I read. More of the ‘Flapper’ ‘Twenties’ images that I envisage Daisy to be inhabiting. The German edition does not seem to focus too much on the ‘garden’ aspect of the mystery at all! 

What am I trying to say? I think that the cover is not fantastic! Never judge a book by its cover is the old adage in which case, I have not and got on with reading the book and reviewing it!

Books · Witterings

Booking Through Thursday

It has been a while since I partook in this particular meme, so I thought would pop over and see what was happening.

This weeks question:

Do you ever feel like you’re in a reading rut? That you don’t read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Funnily enough I felt I was in a self inflicted rut because of too much choice recently. In terms of not reading enough variety, I have certainly felt like that, I went through a stage in my late teens early twenties of reading ‘aga sagas’ by the bucket load and would consume them, despite the fact that some blended into others and I was not sure really where I was.

After a break from reading after being at university, I discovered it again after about 9 months and was reading quite a lot of chic lit! Then all of a sudden, my tastes suddenly changed to eclectic and variety was the name of the game. A lot more crime novels than I have ever read before, I still like chick lit and aga sagas, but they are spattered few and far between amongst my reading nowadays. Sharing a love of books and reading with my mum and her collection of Agatha Christie’s and her love for du Maurier plus us both having a kindle has taken variety to another level! That what would probably be her answer to the question. Further variety is gathered from having a book blog and following others, so yet again I am reading books I know I would certainly have simply ignored in the past.

The only thing I really do need to spread my wings and branch out to is more classical books, I have tried many years ago to tackle some, but perhaps I was not in the right place to be reading them, now might be another time to try. I talk the talk but will I read the book……

Fancy taking part? Pop over to Booking Through Thursday, and leave a comment and link to your post and let us know whether you are stuck in a genre rut!


The Stolen Child – Brian McGilloway

With owning a kindle there is the opportunity to download free books, you must have your wits about you and also have some sort of filter on as well – there are a lot of erotic, seemingly pornographic books which are free. However there are free ones where you might recognise the author. This was one such book. This was a book I am glad I did not pay for.

I have read McGilloway’s books before, an author introduced to me from belonging to the Amazon Vine programme. Most recently was Little Girl Lost  the first two chapters of that book are also on this free kindle edition. My review on Amazon is copied below

This is less than a short story, to me this is a pitch of an idea about a novel and then if accepted would just need fleshing out. Having read previous McGilloway’s books it would probably be very good.

Simply put, Karen can hear a baby crying through a baby monitor at home but her and her husband, Paul do not have a baby. Michael locates the crying baby sound further down the street in a house owned by a single man with no children. Then Paul hears something else and takes matters into his own hands and the single man has a secret to reveal.

Anymore than this would simply be me retelling the story. It has plausible plot line and would be an interesting novel no doubt.

For me it is merely the vehicle to introduce us to McGilloway’s latest novel Little Girl Lost which is certainly worth reading.

Clever marketing ploy but do not pay anything for this, you would be seriously disappointed. 

If you want to look into reading Brian McGilloway (and he has had no influence over this post whatsoever and this is my opinion alone) then try his Inspector Devlin Series; Borderlands, The Rising, Gallows Lane, Bleed a River Deep, the last two I have yet to read.  Good crime novels if you are looking for a new author and a new detective.


The Redbreast – Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo introduces us to Harry Hole, and although I know there are two previous novels, this is the first in Nesbo’s series of books which has been translated although third chronologically. Being new to this author and with slight trepidation about reading a translated novel, I picked up The Redbreast.

Harry Hole is the main character, a detective who made a judgement call and a decision which affects the next path of his career, in fact a rather surprising path. Harry is an archetypal detective, a drink problem never far away, strangely attached to his colleague, Ellen, no personal life other than a father who he rarely sees and a sister who has I can only assume being Down’s syndrome. Simply a workaholic whose whole life is consumed by his job in the police. Jo Nesbo has a main character which can be found in many crime novels, but there is nothing wrong with that, and in some ways as a reader of crime novels and watching a number on the television at least you know what you are going to get with Harry Hole. And get it you do.

However his actions have caused waves and now as an Inspector he is given a different role, investigating Neo-Nazis and also the sudden use of a rare weapon being used in a recent crime. Are the two connected, and without some of the normal resources he is used to, he enlists some help from his colleague Ellen. Then something goes wrong and Harry has to try and find out what Ellen was trying to tell him, and who else knows what she was going to divulge and does it have anything to do with the Neo-Nazis and the plans they may have for the Norway’s Independence Day.

The timeline of the novel moves between the actions of the present day and that of the Second World War, and the occupation of Norway by the Nazis fighting the Russians at the Eastern Front. Here we see life in the trenches, the threat of the Bolsheviks but the relentless dictatorship of the Nazis. Decisions have to be made about where loyalties lie not just when fighting but also in love as well. This is the back-story to the one we as readers are witnessing in the present day.

Once it is all told, the action moves continually into the present and each chapter builds on what Inspector Hole is finding out and where he pieces together with help from friends and enemies the truth, but will he have time to stop the unthinkable happening?  The story lines all come together and I was unsure if they wood because for the first 100 pages or so I struggled with the book and have to admit I nearly gave up. I am glad I did not.

This is a complex novel with perhaps what could be described as a complex character, but Harry Hole has some dry humour and there were parts that made me smile. It was slow to start with but it soon picked up its pace, and I was reading away wanting to find out what happened next and who everyone was and how they fitted in to the bigger picture. I liked the historical elements of the story and learnt a little more about how Norway featured in the Second World War, my knowledge being fairly limited about that particular historical area. I admit to being slightly confused a number of times with the number of characters, their names and the settings in Norway. None of it was familiar to me, so I had to trust the author and just simply ride along with the story. It worked probably 90% of the time, but I am sure some of it passed me by and I did not understand.

I know some criticise this as being not as good as subsequent novels, for my first foray into Norwegian crime fiction this was a good book to start and I look forward to reading the next.

I admit to being rather worried about reading translated fiction, for some reason I simply thought I would not understand it. A strange concept but there you go. I was also concerned because I must be one of the very few people who has not read The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson and as the book is pitched as the Next Stieg Larsson I was even more sceptical. 

Yes, I did nearly give up, mainly because I found the jumping around from past to present, the characters and the numerous place names (which I did not understand and therefore not recognise) in the first 100 pages rather off putting, but having read it and the story picked up, I now realise that Nesbo was setting the scene not just for the present but filling us all in on the past. 

I enjoyed the book once it did race along quite nicely, the chapters were nice and short and I felt rather captured by Harry Hole and all what was going on.  I was still left somewhat confused by the place names, but I do not know why. I want to say it is because I have no knowledge of Oslo and the surrounding areas. But then I have read books set in Glasgow and have no knowledge of that place either having never visited. Perhaps with a second reading I would feel more comfortable about it. 

Notwithstanding my witterings on the place names and my obvious suspicion about reading a translated novel, I do so want to read the next one in the series Nemesis and will look out for it. Not in kindle format but in actual book format like this one, there was something about having hold of the book which made me want to keep reading, probably because I could see what I had read and how much there was to come! 

Now for the comparison with Stieg Larsson, I cannot compare having not read them. I always feel that som e authors are never allowed to come out of the shadow when they are constantly compared to others. (I know it is a marketing tool, but I am cynical) I cannot say Jo Nesbo stands above the rest, because I have not read ‘the rest’ but he stands out for me as being Jo Nesbo and that is all he needs to do.  


My Man Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

This is the first collection of short stories featuring the wonderful creations of P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster. Out of the eight stories in this book, 4 are about Bertie Wooster and his scrapes, guises and friends who pop in and out of his life causing mayhem and madness in equal forms. In steps Jeeves, or materialise as Bertie Wooster is convinced he does “Jeeves had projected himself in from the dining room and materialised on the rug.”

Jeeves is the sort of chap who one can rely on, to get you and others out of scrapes. It is Jeeves in my opinion that make me chuckle with laughter at P.G. Wodehouse stories. Jeeves is a phenomenon and in these four stories has never failed even when faced with adversity, “That’s the sort of chap he is. You can’t rattle him”, “Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can’t do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof”.

These 4 stories are later reworked in subsequent Jeeves books, but for a beginner to Wodehouse then they are the perfect start to a wonderful collection.  I recommend it on this basis alone.

The other 4 stories are with the character Reggie Pepper, who is in some ways a poor creation to Bertie Wooster, he just does not have that “what-ho”ness foppish foolishness that Bertie has which seems to jump off the page.  The story lines are used for subsequent Jeeves and Wooster stories, but there is some humour in them and if only to make a comparison then they are worth a read. Short and to the point, you have an inkling where they are going to end but it is quite fun seeing how it all comes together or falls apart for Reggie and those he comes into contact with.

I do love Jeeves and Wooster and came to these books after the television series (more about that in another post I think). I read quite a few books in my late teens, early twenties and had a fair collection of them. But I gave them away, having now re-looked and some of the lovely covers of the books, I wish I had not and I had kept them, because they are such joyous reading to go back to and revisit. I think I might have to start a collection of them again. 

I had not read this book before though, although I recognise the story lines of Jeeves and Wooster and even remember the episodes of the TV programme as well. But they were like walking back indoors to have Jeeves greet you with a cup of tea, and a “very good, sir”.  The short stories if you are interested are

  • Leave it to Jeeves
  • Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest
  • Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg
  • The Aunt and the Sluggard

Reggie Pepper was certainly a new character to me, and it was only by doing a bit of digging around on the internet that I discovered he was a forerunner for Bertie Wooster.  The stories are titled as follows:

  • Absent Treatment
  • Helping Freddie (Jeeves version called Fixing it for Freddie)
  • Rallying Round Old George (rewritten as the Mulliner Story)
  • Doing Clarence a Bit of Good (Jeeves version called Jeeves makes an Omelette)

These stories as  I say in my review are funny, but not quite up there, and were obviously Wodehouse’s way of testing out not just characters but the plots and the culmination of it all. To me they were a bit of research reading before you got stuck into the really good stuff that was going to help in so many ways. 

I am going to carry on with some more Wodehouse, and will certainly enjoy reading the Jeeves and Wooster  versions of the Reggie Pepper ones! 

Books · Witterings

Too much choice?

Do you ever get to the point where you have finished a book and you have so much choice on your shelves that you do not know what to pick up next?

That is exactly where I am at the moment. I am currently reading The Crimson Petal and White on my Kindle. An excellent book, though overtly graphic in some places for me, and I feel when I have read too much of it I need to move onto something else….

….My Man Jeeves is therefore being read at the moment also on my kindle. I do like Wodehouse and I am revisiting some of these….

… Little Women is still sitting on my kindle and I am over halfway through but I admit to finding this a bit heavy at the moment and certainly not enjoying it…

…So wanting to read a book and feel it in my hand and get absorbed by it I have picked up The Redbreast – Jo Nesbo. I bought this because of recommendations on blogs, reviews and in the bookshop. It has required some concentration and I have yet to be absorbed by it but still so far so good.

But should I not be reading something else? Look at my shelves they have an abundant choice at the moment and there are some more inbound…

…And as new books get released, I am wanting to read them and not the ones I have on my shelf… this is why I have Gillespie and I arriving soon! Read so much about it, reviews are good and it is also the Radio 2 Book club choice as well.

Too much choice for me means I really do not know where to start and what to pick up and read. I feel guilty when I am reading one book I think I should be reading another. Do I then not give proper consideration to the book in my hand because I am itching to read something else? Maybe?

I have always been a one book on the go kind of reader. Occasionally branching into two if they are of a completely different genre and there is no way of getting characters, plots and settings all mixed up. Suddenly I seem to be juggling more than two and then I get lost when I go back to a book I have not read for a few days. But sometimes I just want to read and that was the reason I picked up the second in the Agatha Raisin series, reviewed in my last post.

The conclusion I have reached is I have too many books on the go but also I recognise I am reading whatever takes my fancy when my mood takes me. So do I finish the ones I have on the go and not start any more?

The answer is…..


Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Agatha Raisin is back and this time she is going to forget about her failed attempt at romance with her next door neighbour, James Lacey and avoid men. Perhaps her retirement was not the best move Agatha has made?

But events are never quite as clear as that for Agatha, as she soon realises living in the Cotswold village of Carsely. A new vet, Paul Bladen has arrived and all the local ladies have taken a fancy to him, and all of sudden surgery is very popular with a number of domestic pets being taken for a check up. Agatha joins in with the rest and when the vet asks her out to dinner Agatha thinks that she was wrong about romance.

But then Paul is killed, but was it an accident? Agatha’s intuition which rarely fails her is not wrong. Her manner and concept of dealing with people is wrong and somehow her neighbour who she has been avoiding and who in turn has been avoiding suddenly pair up to find out the truth about the vet.

We follow Agatha as she trips and blunders her way to the truth and has a rather high opinion of herself and a low one of everyone else. There are chinks in her armour and the sudden devotion to her cats a shock to the reader and even more of a shock to Agatha herself becomes the turning point in the investigation. Perhaps now the relationship with James can get back onto a more even footing. But then Agatha will be Agatha!

A good second book in the series, and certainly I will keep reading. There is something delightfully irritating about Agatha and her escapade in the pub toilets made for hilarious reading! No matter how hard she tries, she just cannot get it right.

I needed some easy reading and I was at a bit of a loss what to get into. Thank goodness for Agatha Raisin, what a bit of light relief and also a quick read started on Friday morning, finished Saturday morning!

And what is even more lovely is the though that there are over 20 of these books to catch up on and this is only book 2!


A Matter of Trust – Robin Pilcher

Claire returns to her childhood home in Alloa, Scotland where her step father, Leo has grown rather frail and he may well be in the first stages of dementia. Claire is concerned for him but her step brother and sister seem more concerned with the money that their father has accumulated and the value of the house where he lives.

Claire is taken back to her childhood when she has to fight her fear of meeting a childhood friend Jonas Fairweather who broke her trust when he said he wanted nothing more to do with when she turned eighteen. Claire thinks she has got over this heart break, but has Jonas. Now he needs for her to believe him once again as they did as friends and confront some rather unpleasant consequences of others actions.

The story jumps around quite a lot, not just with setting, New York, West Sussex and Scotland but also backwards in the time setting, when Claire was 11, then as 18 and now in the present. This does take some getting used to and I was slightly lost a time and had to go back and find out what year we were in. Aside from this I would say this book is just a story and it ambles along fairly predictably. There was no excitement and no feelings of “I must keep reading to find out what happens”.

This book could be pitched as a family saga, but not quite up there as probably his mothers (Rosamund Pilcher) work where they tend to be a bit meatier and with more depth. This is like the middle size version. Perfect for a bit of escapism but not really anything that you will be able to really get your teeth into and feel that you are with the family in every part of their saga.

I was disappointed with this book, and my description of it just telling a story is the only way I could describe it. It evoked no thoughts and feelings in me whilst I was reading it or after I had finished it. Is this a good or a bad thing? 

What do you think of the cover of this book?  I always hope that the cover gives us an insight into what is between the pages. Is this the house that Claire lived with her mother, stepfather and his children?

The road immediately became a gravel driveway…it all went rather dark and gloomy because they were enclosed by rhododendron bushes that grew out so far that they nearly touched the sides of the car…the lawns…a huge beech tree grew in the centre of each…once clear of the trees…the sloping glass roofs of the greenhouses away over to her left…and on the far side of this stood the house, a vast stone-built rectangular building with a mass of chimney pots…wide stone steps, narrowing as they rose, led up to a central front door.

My picture I had created in my imagination from these words is certainly not what was depicted on the front of this book. Perhaps sometimes the words create far better pictures than book covers can ever do.