Saturday, October 14, 2006

Atkinson Is On the Case

While we wait for Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn (which I'll be reviewing 10/22 in my Chicago Tribune column), her last book, Case Histories, is available in paperback. Here's what I wrote when it first came out:

I'm tempted to call Kate Atkinson's wonderful new mystery a detective story for people who don't like detective stories -- but that would be both pointless (Why would they be reading this column?) and pandering. So I'll just say that Atkinson, who won the British Whitbread Award in 1995 for her memorable novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum, is having lots of fun bending genre rules until they seem about to shatter.

Who else could create a central character as dark and funny as Cambridge-based private detective Jackson Brodie, lover of country music (especially as sung by women), divorced and desperately missing his daughter, an investigator determined to give his clients as much closure as possible?

Brodie is the link between the three case histories chronicled by Atkinson with much wit and heart: two sisters still haunted by the disappearance of a third 34 years ago, a guilt-ridden father whose daughter was murdered in his own law office, a woman eager to escape the drudgeries of home and baby who suddenly and horribly gets what she wants. It's quite an amazing performance, whatever bookshelf you put it on.