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Case Histories: A Novel Hardcover – November 9, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316740403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316740401
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (450 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious fourth novel from Whitbread winner Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum), private detective Jackson Brodie—ex-cop, ex-husband and weekend dad—takes on three cases involving past crimes that occurred in and around London. The first case introduces two middle-aged sisters who, after the death of their vile, distant father, look again into the disappearance of their beloved sister Olivia, last seen at three years old, while they were camping under the stars during an oppressive heat wave. A retired lawyer who lives only on the fumes of possible justice next enlists Jackson's aid in solving the brutal killing of his grown daughter 10 years earlier. In the third dog-eared case file, the sibling of an infamous ax-bludgeoner seeks a reunion with her niece, who as a baby was a witness to murder. Jackson's reluctant persistence heats up these cold cases and by happenstance leads him to reassess his own painful history. The humility of the extraordinary, unabashed characters is skillfully revealed with humor and surprise. Atkinson contrasts the inevitable results of family dysfunction with random fate, gracefully weaving the three stories into a denouement that taps into collective wishful thinking and suggests that warmth and safety may be found in the aftermath of blood and abandonment. Atkinson's meaty, satisfying prose will attract many eager readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics on the other side of the Atlantic love Atkinson; Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the Whitbread Prize. To Americans’ delight, Case Histories has made the great leap. The novel is not your typical crime genre fare (that is why we placed it within our literary reviews); it’s also a series of family sagas with strong moral frameworks. Atkinson delineates each character with great empathy and depth, revealing his or her motivations, flaws, and healing. She sprinkles her trademark postmodern literary references throughout the book, but this time she’s toned them down, a sign of maturity. The four alternating points of view and framing device create a somewhat labyrinthine situation, and careful readers may pick up clues before they’re supposed to. Minor flaws, really; Case Histories is that "unisex, hard-to-put-down" kind of book (Chicago Sun-Times).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


More About the Author

Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award. She has been a critically acclaimed, bestselling author ever since, with over one million copies of her books in print in the United States.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog. Case Histories, which introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, was made into a television series starring Jason Isaacs.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh.


Customer Reviews

A fun and mysterious read.
prisrob
I felt there were perhaps too many characters and a little too much going on, but that's really my only criticism.
Malfoyfan
Ms. Atkinson does a good job of weaving the stories together.
Ken Staffey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

140 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Smith on October 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is my first venture at Atkinson, and I have to say she's a delightful writer to read. She really knows how to hook you.

The story opens with the accounts of three crimes from the perspectives of those who were there at the time. Then, in the present, we meet private investigator Jackson Brodie (a former police inspector) who is dealing with his painful divorce, serious dental problems, and his ever-maturing eight-year-old daughter. Jackson's perspective guides the rest of the narrative through new leads in the three cases, and it isn't long before all three cases are entwined via their connection with Jackson.

While this sounds like a stock mystery novel or something straight off a British crime drama, Atkinson's style offers a little more than the standard mystery fare. She leaps one perspective to another with admirable grace, always managing to keep the many characters and their intertwining narratives totally distinct and completely engrossing.

My only qualms with the story had to do with the plot itself: it's pretty easy to pick up the clues Atkinson drops, and thus, figure out the conclusion well before the ending; and as for the ending--it wasn't as satisfying as it could have been. But her writing is so fluid, by turns funny and poingant, that I couldn't put it down.
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107 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jackson Brodie, a private detective, is investigating three old cases, which soon begin to converge and overlap. Three-year-old Olivia Land disappeared without a trace thirty-five years ago while sleeping outside with one of her sisters, two of whom have hired Jackson to find out what happened. Theo Wyre has hired him to investigate the death of his daughter Laura Wyre, who was killed by a maniac ten years before while working in her father's office. Shirley Morrison, Jackson's third client, is trying to locate her sister and her niece. Her sister Michelle, living with her husband and young daughter on an isolated farm, has vanished from Shirley's life, and after twenty-five years, Shirley wants to find her.

Atkinson's suspenseful and dramatic cases pique the reader's interest in the characters and their lives, especially the female characters. Most have faced traumatic events and suffered through less than ideal childhoods, which unfold inexorably as the cases become more complex. Not a linear narrative, the novel focuses on different characters in successive chapters, moving back and forth in time to provide background and to set up the overlaps which eventually occur. The characters are sometimes bizarre, baffling, and even unsympathetic, but they are always memorable for their behavior and their justifications for it.

Filled with ironies and noir humor, the novel also reveals Atkinson's astute observation of social interactions, as she skewers some aspects of her characters' lives while also creating sympathy for them. While the first two case histories-that of the missing Olivia and the murdered Laura-are genuinely sad and regarded overall as tragedies, the story of Michelle Fletcher, and peripherally, her sister Shirley, is much darker.
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96 of 102 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I've read of Atkinson's, and while it's fairly entertaining, I'm not quite sure what all the hype is about. The story revolves around 30something ex-cop Jackson Brodie, who plies his private investigative skills in present-day Cambridge, England. He is called upon to look into three cases from the past, which are introduced in the three opening chapters. The first involves the disappearance of a small girl in 1970, the second involves the apparently random murder of teenage girl in 1994, and the third involves the whereabouts of a woman who killed her husband in 1979. As Jackson looks into these different blasts from the past, we also see him struggling with his personal life. Like so many fictional police and detective protagonists he's divorced and estranged from his ex-wife, and barely able to connect with his 8-year-old daughter. He also has a family secret in his past which is alluded to several times before being revealed at the end.

The cases are all quite dark, and Atkinson does a very good job of conveying the sense of sorrow and loss that surrounds each. Jackson pursues them without a lot of hope but with due diligence and as in so many procedurals, discovers threads to each that went unexplored. It's diverting enough, but many of the characters are somewhat superficial, which keeps the book from being as good as it might have been. In the first case, the father is the archetype distracted, brusque professor, each of the four sisters is a "type" (the golden child, the outgoing dramatic one, the repressed lost middle one, the weird religious one), and there's a crone who lives next door with a gazillion cats.
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Miami Reader on December 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Washington Post review has it right. You will like this novel if:
--You enjoy strikingly crafted, humorous phrases that make you applaud the writer's insights regarding the human condition.
--You like stories written in non-linear fashion, where points of view and major characters change from one chapter to the next, incidents are not always revealed in the order in which they occur, new characters suddenly enter the story for no apparent reason, and you get to use your smarts to deduce what is happening. (Fear not; all is eventually and clearly explained.)
--Several engrossing mysterious threads keep you on edge to find out what the explanations are going to be.
--"Howtodealwithit"--conflicted, troubled people trying to straighten out their lives--is as interesting to you as whodunit.

You will not like this novel if:
--You want a slam-bang action thriller with little or no introspection by the characters.
--You're turned off by major changes in story line and characters from one chapter to the next.
--You'd rather not read about incest, (occasional) casual sex, and dysfunctional families with parents who seem incapable of giving love.
--You strongly object to unlikely coincidences that tie plot elements together.

Stephen King rated this as the best novel of the year in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. I couldn't put it down. This was my first Kate Atkinson novel, and I'm going to read all of her others.

Addendum to review: Sorry to report that I did not enjoy Atkinson's earlier novels; found them tedious, difficult, slow, hard to relate to. Think twice before buying any of them.
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