- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books (October 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316010707
- ISBN-13: 978-0316010702
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (631 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Case Histories: A Novel Paperback – October 17, 2005
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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. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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); its 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 shes 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 theyre 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. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
First, Kate Atkinson’s books, while not really necessarily depressing, are certainly filled with depressing people. I’m thoroughly convinced after reading several of her books, that this author had a pretty miserable, warped childhood. When all you know is heartache, depression, and trauma, how can you really be expected to write about anything else? She always injects humorous observations and witty descriptions throughout the pages, which makes you laugh out loud at the same time as you’re reading about the lives of these sad lugs.
Next, we must remember that Atkinson’s strength is writing about people and their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. She doesn’t necessarily tell a linear story. This book was labeled as the first of one of her many “Jackson Brodie Novels”. Jackson Brodie is a detective, yet these books are not in the traditional “whodunnit” vein. If you’re looking for a good mystery novel, the Jackson Brodie series probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
Yes, this book does have a few crime investigations running through it. We get a missing child, a random murder of a child, and, what could be described as an “ax murder”. What’s unique is that these incidents happen in different times and in different places, and Atkinson’s skilled writing manages to somehow make all of these situations current, which is when we meet Jackson Brodie. Jackson (obviously) is just as miserable as all of the people affected by all of these tragedies. He had a rotten childhood, a rotten marriage, manages to get beat up a lot, and on and on and on.
Once we arrive at the book’s conclusion, many were disappointed at the abruptness of the finale, and felt that things were thrown together to conveniently to appear the slightest bit realistic. Those observations are correct. As stated, though, this book is about people and not necessarily events.
If you have the stomach for books such as this (and I haven’t even discussed the foul language, the sex, the suicides, etc.), you’ll probably find it enjoyable as I did. I’ll probably have to wait several months before I read the next book by this author. And when I do, I’ll ensure to have some Prozac handy.
I can give Atkinson some credit for the ambition inherent in her decision to graft together three or four crime storylines into a single novel. Unfortunatley, I don't feel it worked out very well in the end. (Ironically, the novel attempts to resolve each of those storylines in a fashion that is too simple, too obvious, and largely uninteresting.) This book received a good deal of praise when it was published, which is part of why I'd been meaning to read it for several years. Was not worth the wait. Though I enjoyed spending time with Jackson Brodie and Theo (the latter of whom vaguely reminded me of the protagonist in John Gardner's bittersweet novel Nickel Mountain), the Land sisters and their neighbor Binky blotted out most of the pleasure I thought I would get from the book.