"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

When Will there be Good News?

TITLE: When Will there be Good News?
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

It's hard to call the Jackson Brodie books mysteries. It's hard to call the books -- 3 of them now and I hope there will be more -- the Jackson Brodie series. There is a mystery in them somewhere and Jackson does show up, but the mystery is only part of things and Jackson is but one of the main characters.

In this one, Jackson shares the spotlight with Louise, a police detective who appeared previously, and with Reggie Chase, a worldly-wise barely 16-year-old girl who looks much younger. She's had a tough life, and now orphaned, she's working as a babysitter for Dr. Joanna Hunter. Dr. Hunter has a secret. Thirty years ago, she was the sole survivor of an attack that claimed her mother, sister, and baby brother, and now, the killer has been freed. Reggie knows nothing of this, but she becomes concerned when Dr. Hunter disappears, despite Joanna's husband seeming unconcerned, claiming his wife is visiting a sick aunt no one's heard of.

Meanwhile, Louise is feeling stuck in her new marriage, Jackson is obsessed with proving his ex-lover's son is really his, and Reggie's criminal brother is causing trouble for her. When Jackson is involved in a train crash near where Reggie is living, she ends up saving his life with CPR and, well... it sounds so uninteresting when boiled down to the facts.

The book is full of coincidences and people connected to each other in unusual and unexpected ways, not the least of which is Jackson and Louise being obsessed with each other, unrequited, while both are now married to others. This is a story about intersecting lives and the quiet desperation people often must overcome to survive. The mystery is just a means to an end, but it's the journey that counts. Atkinson is a good writer with a strong ability to bring characters to life. Reggie is a marvel, and I wouldn't mind seeing a book devoted to her. But she'd probably end up sharing it with other, even more intriguing characters. Such is the way of a Kate Atkinson book.