M's Reviews > Case Histories

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
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's review
Sep 09, 2008

really liked it

Wow - first I got to say, Scottish writers are changing my life. O'farrel and now this one - there is just something to the humor, the detail, the plotlines. Second, I am so not a mystery person and yet I was totally into this story - mysteries tend to be plot drivewn and lack in written quality or developed characters but this had both (this felt like Jodi Picoult done right) - I couldn't put it down as I was genuinely curious about the ending as well as eager to hear more of the witicism and characters - a fun, engaging and stimulating read. They really know what they're doing off in Europe. I loved this book so much that I was excited to get on the subway because I'd get to read it.
Essentially it is a bunch of seemingly unrelated cases that come together through one investigator - at times the connections are sort of cheesy but since its a fun book its ok, and for the most part I just really enjoyed all the quirks of the various pieces and their coming together. Such a fun read, I have ordered more of her stuff and we shall see.
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message 1: by K (new) - rated it 4 stars

K My introduction to Kate Atkinson was another book of hers, "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" -- a tragic and yet acerbically funny book about a dysfunctional family. It was a really good book, and an excellent example of how an author can write about something really sad and intersperse the right amount of comic relief, in the right way, to make it enjoyable to read and not overly depressing, yet also not erring on the side of destroying her characters or minimizing what happens to them. It also ended on a hopeful, yet realistic note, so that overall the book was not depressing and miserable even though sad things happened throughout.

I then ended up picking up the sequel to "Case Histories" (without having read "Case Histories"), which was also good and similar to the way you described "Case Histories."

I used to assume, based on some limited experience, that mysteries were all plot-driven and very light on characterization or complexity of relationships, and therefore not a genre I would enjoy. I have since happily discovered some literary mystery authors who use the framework of a mystery as an opportunity to explore complex relationships (after all, what kind of feelings and relationships would contribute to someone's murdering someone else?).

My absolute favorite example of that genre is "For the Sake of Elena" by Elizabeth George. It's actually part of a series about this detective team, Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers. The first book, which introduces Lynley and Havers, is "A Great Deliverance" -- decent, not quite as amazing as "For the Sake of Elena," but an easy read and an opportunity to get to know the characters and the set-up. I also really liked "In the Presence of the Enemy." Some Lynley/Havers books were better than others, but by and large they were all enjoyable and Barbara Havers is one of my favorite book characters.

Another literary mystery author I enjoy a lot is P.D. James. I think my favorite one of hers was "A Certain Justice."

Literary mysteries were actually a very happy reading discovery for me, because they offer a lot in the way of characterization and complexity, but still manage to be quick and easy reads with a captivating plot.

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