Kim's Reviews > Case Histories

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
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's review
May 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: crime-fiction

What a joy it is to not only discover an author I haven't read before, but to read a book which I did not want to put down! That is the effect that this novel had on me. As a long-time reader of crime fiction, it is also a joy to read such a literate and character-driven mystery, which does not fit neatly into any particular crime fiction sub-genre. While crimes are committed and a detective is there to solve them, neither the crimes themselves nor their resolution are what makes the novel live and breathe.

For me, this is primarily a novel about relationships: in particular the relationships between siblings and those between parents and children. Atkinson describes warm, loving relationships, relationships made brittle by loss and fear, and relationships destroyed by time and circumstance. The theme of "lost girls" is explicitly raised and reiterated within the narrative: a much loved youngest sister is missing, an adored daughter is murdered, another daughter is lost. These are the seemingly random but ultimately inter-connected cases investigated (or not) by Atkinson's detective protagonist, Jackson Brodie. However, Brodie does not stand apart from the victims: his relationship with his daughter and his siblings is woven into and becomes part of the overall story arc.

There is so much I love about this novel. The characters themselves are wonderfully brought to life. The narrative technique, with its shifts in point of view and time, its folding back on itself as parts of the story intersect with other parts is clever, but not annoyingly so. While the narrative does rely on coincidence, in the context of this novel that felt okay. Actually, not just okay, but right, because all readers have experienced random coincidences which come from nowhere and yet profoundly affect their lives. The language is clear and crisp. There is suspense (I wouldn't have read the novel in two sittings had this not been the case!) and there is emotion. I laughed and I cried and from time to time I even gasped. As a reader I can't really ask for much more than that.

If this novel is an example of the general calibre of Kate Atkinson's writing, then I'm really looking forward to reading more. Highly recommended for readers who like character-driven narratives and who don't need their crime fiction to slot neatly into a particular genre.

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Reading Progress

May 7, 2011 – Shelved
November 5, 2011 – Started Reading
November 6, 2011 –
November 7, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-19)

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message 19: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna I really liked this one, and am currently reading #2 in the series :-)

message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Me too. I'm racing through it. What's #2 like? The reviews don't seem as positive as they are for this one.

message 17: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna No, it's not as good, but I'm still enjoying it. It's even more character based (as opposed to plot based) than #1, meaning that at the half way point, still nothing much has happened. With another author, I may have been bored, but KA has the knack of keeping me interested.

Glad you're enjoying #1 so much :-)

message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I enjoyed it so much that I just finished it. Not quite a record for me, but very fast nevertheless. I couldn't put it down!

message 15: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna Think I read book #1 in two sittings, so yes, I agree with you, it was compelling stuff! Looking forward to your review, you always do such good ones :-)

message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim The review will be a job for tomorrow. I need to let it wash over me as I go to sleep. Lots to think about ....

Jemidar I think I read this one in two sittings too :-).

message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Simran. It's definitely not traditional crime fiction. I love genre-bending novels and this is a book which meets that description.

Jemidar Another excellent review Kim :-).

message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Jemidar wrote: "Another excellent review Kim :-)."

Ta very much, J. :D

Anna Jemidar wrote: "Another excellent review Kim :-)."

Seconded! :-)

Jemidar Anna, are you stalking me again? LOL.

Anna Always two paces behind you.......!

Jemidar Spooky ;-D.

Anna Mwah-haha ;-P

Kathy Great review, Kim! I've read all but the last in this series with Jackson Brodie, think there are 4 now. Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel is the most recent one which I just bought and plan to read soon. My interest was rekindled after watching the PBS broadcast of Case Histories. Did you happen to see it? Excellent, loved the actor playing Jackson. So glad you are enjoying these wonderful books, too, Kim!

message 3: by Alison (new)

Alison Smith I've read a couple of Kate Atkinson's books, & never been disappointed. Plenty of treats in store for you!

message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I'm really looking forward to reading more of Atkinson's work, Kathy and Alison. It's always so great to find a new writer.

Laura Fantastic review, Kim!

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