- Setting: London, England, present day
- Jackson Brodie is an ex-cop turned private detective. He’s bitter about his recent divorce and his downgrade to part-time dad for his little girl Marlee. Yet despite the anger at his ex-wife and her new husband, Brodie is a softie. (He’s working pro bono trying to find a black cat with a most unfortunate name for an eccentric old widow.) He’s also quite attractive to the ladies―evidenced by the fact that several of his female clients are as interested in him romantically as they are in his services. But lately, Brodie has a bit of a problem―someone keeps trying to kill him.
- Brodie’s clients are a diverse bunch. We have the quarreling, eccentric pair of sisters, Amelia and Julia, who are seeking Brodie’s help in locating their beloved baby sister who disappeared mysteriously when she was only 3 years old. We also meet Theo―an overweight sad sack of a man who cannot move past the murder of his beloved daughter more than 10 years earlier by a killer who was never found. Finally, we meet a woman who wants to locate her long-lost sister―a woman with a past she wants to keep hidden at all costs.
4 things I liked or disliked about the book
- I liked how Atkinson structured the book. At the beginning, we’re presented with three case histories that tell us about crimes that were committed in 1970 (A Family Plot), 1994 (Just A Normal Day) and 1979 (Everything from Duty, Nothing from Love). Each case history is about 10 or so pages and plunges you directly into a story about a time when things went terribly, horribly wrong. Yet in just those few pages, Atkinson creates an amazingly detailed sketch of the dynamics and personalities involved. I was amazed how quickly I was drawn into these case histories―I wanted to know more! But then Atkinson introduces Jackson Brodie, and we begin to get involved with his life. At first, I was a little confused about what was happening, but once it started coming together, I fell in love with this approach. Along with Jackson, we keep finding out a bit more about each case history―with Atkinson writing each chapter from a different character’s point of view.
- Atkinson has a wonderful sense of humor that permeates the entire book. Despite stories dealing with sad and awful things, I found myself frequently laughing out loud. (In a way, the tone of the book reminded me of Catherine O’Flynn’s novels, What Was Lost and The News Where You Are.) I particularly got a kick out of the relationship between Julia and Amelia. The dynamics between those two were endlessly amusing. I love how Atkinson managed to write both a gripping mystery book while also taking the time to develop her characters and giving them personalities and lives. It makes a much more interesting read than just working your way through a heavily plotted mystery.
- I loved how Atkinson ended the book―particularly since it leaves the door wide open for a sequel (which, lucky for me, was already published as One Good Turn. And yes, I already have it!) I got quite attached to Jackson and some of the other characters so I was excited to learn that this wasn’t the end of line for them. Plus, Atkinson tosses Brodie a rather large bone that just opens up the possibilities for the second book.
- Although I like the realism of having a detective working multiple cases at once (just like it would be in real life), naturally some of the cases/story lines worked better for me than others. Of the three case histories, I thought the one dealing with Caroline was the least effective and compelling―most likely because it was the most isolated of the three stories and felt almost unresolved at the end. Yet it is minor complaint, and it shouldn’t really stop you from reading this book.
5 stars or less for my rating:
I’m giving the book 4.5 stars. I just loved this book to pieces. It isn’t often that you find a novel that skillfully weaves together several mysteries, presents a diverse array of interesting and flawed characters, and has just the right combination of humor and wit to make it a pleasure to read. This was an immensely satisfying read, and I’d highly recommend it to just about anyone! Kate Atkinson … come on down! You’ve just earned a place on my favorite author list!
The Whys and Wheres: I’d gotten this book from Paperback Swap a while back based on someone’s recommendation (I’m not sure who .. but whoever you are, thank you!) Then it kind of languished on my bookshelves and I forgot about it. Then my pal Michael5000 (AKA Mr. Debbie Downer) mentioned how much he enjoyed Kate Atkinson so I picked it up and read it. I’m so glad I did so thanks for the kick in the behind on this one, M5K! I owe you!
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