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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, 2004, * * *

In this 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.  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 "cold" case, 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 cases are all quite dark, and Atkinson does a good job of conveying the sense of sorrow and loss that surrounds each.  Jackson pursues them without a lot of hope but with due diligence and as in so many procedurals, discovers threads to each that went unexplored. The chapters hopscotch between the different storylines, and the plot unravels in the manner of a good airplane or beach read but it's pretty easy to pick up the clues Atkinson drops, and thus, figure out the conclusion well before the ending and the conclusion to the book wasn't as satisfying as it could have been.  It was good but not great.

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