Case Histories is the first book in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I chose this novel because I was in the mood for a good mystery, plus I recently read Life After Life, also by Kate Atkinson, and liked the author’s writing style. Unfortunately, my craving for a good mystery was not satisfied.
The premise of Case Histories is very promising – private investigator Jackson Brodie is commissioned to solve three different cold cases by three different clients. This sets up an expectation with the reader that the three cases will all converge in the end in a satisfying and surprising way. The back stories for the three crimes is told in a compelling way, so the novel starts out well as we learn about a toddler who disappeared, a young wife and mother who killed her husband with an ax, and a teenager killed in an apparently random act of violence.
But despite a good start, the book steadily declines as the author focuses on developing her miserable lot of characters, most of which have weird hang ups about sex, weak moral characters, unfulfilling lives and a disdain for religion. Sex, in particular, was brought up often and in very crass ways that did nothing to advance the plot and only made the characters even more unlikable. It really became strange after a while.
And speaking of the plot, the mystery was moved forward halfheartedly with some obligatory, but very light, detective work. Really, all Jackson Brodie did was interview a few people that the police hadn’t interviewed during their original investigations and voila! – three cold cases solved! And the clever convergence of the three cases that I was looking forward to? Yeah, that didn’t happen. They were mostly just three separate cases. That actually made me a bit angry. I stuck it out through chapters and chapters of depressing character development only because I wanted to see how it ended, and the ending was a big disappointment.
Needless to say, I don’t recommend this one.
What’s the last good mystery you read? Or, better yet, what books have made you a little mad?