Amy Reads Books

Case Histories

Case Histories  - Kate Atkinson I think this novel has really made me realise that Kate Atkinson is probably going to become one of my favourite authors. Case Histories opens with three 'cold cases'; the disappearance of Olivia Land, the random murder of Laura Wyre and the teenage wife Michelle murdering her husband with an axe. All these cases become interwoven with the life of Jackson Brodie, an ex-police officer who now works as a private investigator; watching spouses suspected of having affairs and dealing with Binky Rain, an elderly lady with hundreds of cats. He is approached by Amelia & Julia Land who want to look for their sister, by Theo Wyre who wants to know why his daughter was killed and by Shirley Morrison, the sister of Michelle, who wants to find Michelle's adopted daughter.Whilst Atkinson's previous novels I've read (Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Emotionally Weird) were family mysteries, this novel is both a family mystery and a crime mystery novel, meaning that Atkinson's twisty narrative is even more applicable here. The novel is split between the perspectives of Jackson, Amelia and Theo, with another perspective named Caroline, being weaved throughout, the importance of which is revealed near the end of the novel. Atkinson's ability to embody different characters never ceases to amaze me. There's the cynical outlook of Jackson, Theo's life haunted by the idealised memory of Laura and Amelia's slightly uptight outlook, no doubt impacted by her dysfunctional past.Typical of Atkinson's novels there are numerous plot twists, with some hinted at clearly for the reader and others which seem set up to purposefully trick the reader into thinking one thing; whilst it really means another. She also doesn't do the typical crossing over of plotlines that people are generally familiar with; instead the characters (aside from Jackson) all brush up against each other accidentally, for example, Theo has an asthma attack in a park and Julia gives him her inhaler.Jackson Brodie is a perfect anti-hero; he is a fallible, frequently going against 'ethical' practices and isn't the 'typical' detective of the CSI mold, who turns up and solves a case within seconds. His affection for his daughter Marlee is believable, as his lingering pain from his divorce from Josie (Marlee's mother) and his own tragic back story regarding his sister Niamh gives Brodie a real element of softness beyond his cynical exterior. I really also felt for Theo, Laura's story almost led me to tears when I read the second case, with the constant listing of Laura's favourite things. Amelia and Julia were both products of their upbringing, which we discover to be increasingly twisted, I'll admit to not really warming to Julia's constant flirting with Jackson; but then this may be because we saw it from the perspective of Amelia, who also hated it due to her own personal interest with Brodie. Their sister Sylvia is also well realised, and I quite liked the cameo from Jackson's friend Howell in the latter pages of the novel.I really recommend Case Histories, I actually really recommend Atkinson's novels in general. She has a wonderful ability to write complicated, twisting plots with compelling characters and beautiful prose.