Black Swan | 2005 | 432p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
Having recently read and adored Big Sky by Kate Atkinson, the fifth in her Jackson Brodie series, I knew I had to read the others. And so, while on holiday recently, I spent my time with the first, Case Histories, and it is wonderful.
It presents three cold case histories, each seemingly disconnected and each fascinating in their own right – a missing child who all these years later still leaves an immense hole in her troubled sisters’ lives; a young woman is brutally killed while working as a temp in the office of her father, a man who can never come to terms with his loss and her absence; a young mother who loses her temper and kills her husband with an axe. Uniting them all is Jackson Brodie, an ex-detective turned investigator who helps people, sometimes for free, should he discover a truth that nobody deserves to learn.
Jackson Brodie is a magnificent character. I fell for him in Big Sky but in Case Histories I got to know him much better as we learn about his past, which continues to haunt him in the future novels, as well as his present, including his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter.
The writing is as witty and insightful as you’d expect from Kate Atkinson, surely one of the finest authors writing today. There are themes and chapters here that are heartbreaking and often truly disturbing but Jackson Brodie still finds the humanity of it all and so there is wit and there are laughs. But it can also be grim as we find ourselves so thoroughly immersed in the lives of these missing people and their suffering families. But there is one storyline going through the novel, that of the axe-murderer, that adds something else, a macabre humour and drama that works so well.
Having read two in this series, the first and the last, and fallen completely for Jackson Brodie, who’s such a force for good and light in a world so often scarily dark, I can’t wait to read the others. One Good Turn will be next.