Books

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….

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3 thoughts on “Case Histories – Kate Atkinson

  1. I’m a huge Kate Atkinson fan, I’d really recommend Behind the Scenes at the Musem. Everyone I’ve spoken to loved this book but I know a few people struggled with Emotionally Weird.

    I had started When Will There be Good news but left the book somewhere and never ended up going back to it. I’m keen to start the Jackson Brodie books though and after this great review I might just dig out Case Histories which is in my room somewhere : )

  2. I really enjoyed Behind the Scenes at the Museum too. I did finish When Will There be Good News but I found it to be really depressing, so I haven’t read any since then. I think I’ll give this one a go, thanks.

  3. I’ve loved pretty much everything Kate Atkinson has done, and I do think this book is one of her best. But I do wish she would rest or retire Jackson Brodie and do something a little different.

    I was dubious about whether a television adaptation would work, whether the feel of the books could be captured, but now that I’ve seen a trrailer I’m thinking it looks very promising.

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