Sunday, November 30, 2008

Case Histories - Kate Atkinson

Jackson Brodie is a former police inspector turned private detective. He is hired for three separate cases in Case Histories. Case one involves the Land family. One night during the 70s when the four Land girls were young, Amelia and Olivia were permitted to spend the night outside in their tent. When Amelia woke up the next morning Olivia was gone without a trace. Thirty years later when their father died, they came across Olivia's toy that went missing with her. Case two involved Theo Wyre or rather it involved the death of Theo's daughter, Lara. Lara was stabbed to death in Theo's law office and the murderer was never discovered. Theo left his law practice after Lara's death and spent ten years mulling over every detail of the investigation before he turns the case over to Brodie. And finally, case three involves Michelle. Michelle took a wood axe to her husband's head in a fit of rage. Michelle's sister hires Brodie to find Michelle's daughter.

I listened to this book on the BBC audiobook read by Susan Jameson. I can't say as she is one of my more favorite readers. The biggest problem I had was with the Land sisters who were supposed to be in their late thirties, early forties. However, all I could picture from Jameson's reading were 60-70 year-old bitties. The Golden Girls continually came to mind. And twenty or thirty years down the road they may very well resemble Blanche and Dorothy, but I don't think that was what Atkinson had in mind for these characters. While I try to be tolerant of gender differences - I've yet to discover a great male reader who does great female voices and vice versa - Jameson's higher pitched voice made the male voices especially female-sounding.

Unfortunately I also ran into problems with the quality of the CDs. So, I think I missed a rather important element at the end of the novel when all of the story lines were being wrapped up.

For those of you who disliked Tana French's conclusion to In the Woods, you will definitely love this novel. Atkinson ties up each story line with the events as they happened. This happens after Brodie concludes his investigations and essentially solves the cases. So, all the little missing details that no one would know are flushed out at the conclusion.

I enjoyed this novel overall, but found it hard to like Jackson Brodie. I liked his role as father, but as a person, he was overly judgemental and harsh on other people and he definitely lacked empathy. I especially disliked his shallow assessment of the female characters.

I felt a great deal of sympathy for both Theo and Amelia; Atkinson did a wonderful job of eliciting that emotion for these two survivors who have struggled for so long with their losses. Julia was the comic relief to the novel. The third case history involving Michelle was a bit on the odd side. I almost wonder if it wouldn't have been a tighter novel without the inclusion of that case.

The plot is a slower-moving plot, but as I mentioned earlier all the ends are tied up at the conclusion of the novel. That approach creates a definite feeling of closure for the novel. The three cases do end up having connections, so it isn't as though there are three separate short stories, but the connections are loose enough that it is three distinct case histories Jackson is investigating.

I thought the plot was unique. It wasn't predictable, but it's also the kind of novel that doesn't give you the necessary clues until the conclusion so you really don't have much of a chance to logically deduce the outcome.

Overall, I found Case Histories to be an enjoyable mystery on audiobook.


Corey Wilde December 1, 2008 at 2:48 PM  

I think that male writers often have a difficult time writing 3-D female characters (John Grisham and John Hart spring to mind). Do you think that Atkinson may have the same problem in reverse? Female writers can be just as guilty of stereotyping male characters -- and here I'm thinking of Val McDermid.

Jen December 2, 2008 at 5:50 PM  

That could very well be what it is, Corey. Makes me have a lot more respect (as if I needed more) for RC with his fantastic female Carol Starkey and Linda Fairstein. She has one of my favorite male characters in Mike Chapman.

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