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Case Histories: A Novel Paperback – October 17, 2005
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
--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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A mess of stories, not enough to make a good book out of any of them in the hands of this author, so she just threw them all together. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Hortensia
Took me awhile to connect the "stories" . Atkinson is a master storyteller. Enjoyed it after all. The beginning was not per Atkinson.. Got into after all.Published 15 days ago by Rbd
Very funny. Great writing style. Look forward to reading the rest in the Jackson Brodie seriesPublished 1 month ago by GG
The weakest of the novels by Kate Atkinson that I've read so far. (I've read them all, through "A God in Ruins", except for the four Jackson Brodie novels. Read morePublished 1 month ago by An_Amazon_Customer
Good summer reading. Easy, rich in characters. Unexpected in almost every way.
This is true of the whole series.
Multiple cases with interesting characters which can be hard to follow at times, but a thoroughly enjoyable read. Main character is very endearing.Published 2 months ago by John W. Chluski