I’ve been drawn to Kate Atkinson’s books after recently reading a blurb for her 2013 release Life After Life. I’d never encountered her before, despite her first novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum being quite widely acclaimed (I’ve only just bought this as a secondhand book sale this very afternoon).
In the period between hearing about her new novel, and it actually coming out, I found myself wandering the aisles of an airport bookstore, trying to find something that wasn’t in Dutch. It was then that I happened across Case Histories.
I never think of myself as the murder mystery type. It’s always a bit too CSI for me — infinite variations on the same plots and characters (often it seems like the only difference is that this one is set in Miami, and that one is set in New York, or Las Vegas). Bla bla bla. And, I have to admit that I thought this was going the same way: A young girl, long missing; a trapped young mother; and a promising young woman with her whole life ahead of her, each of whom need the surly ex-cop investigator to avenge her seems very same-y.
But, Ms Atkinson creates a captivating cast, whose interactions are by turns squirmy and hilarious and upsetting. Her plot twists and winds in ways that you do not suspect, and yet which seem so fitting once the veil is lifted that you can’t see how else it could have ended.
I loved the way she told the story as much as I enjoyed the story itself. Her prose is simple, and flows naturally. It’s not flowery writing. It’s get the job done writing. She often hops along her timeline, and between points of view, in a way which makes the story feel multifaceted. This devise also acts in her favour when it comes to big reveals, as it gives her a mechanism with which to delay the delivery of dialogue and other observational tidbits which the characters are privy to.
The women themselves are vivacious characters. At varying points they are innocence personified, cruel, boisterous and lewd. They’re troublemakers. While they may enlist detective Jackson Brodie’s services, they are not damsels (and more often than not, they are the ones causing him distress).
While searching for a cover image I discovered that this has been made into a TV series? I’m so behind the times.