After reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson last year, I couldn’t resist reading Case Histories. I don’t think Case Histories is as good as Life After Life, but since Life After Life is an exceptionally good book, that doesn’t mean much. Case Histories is still a very good book.
The actual case histories in this novel don’t seem to have a common thread in the beginning, although they all tell a story of something going terribly wrong in somebody’s life. There is the disappearance of a dearly loved child, followed by a young mother hitting her husband over the head with an axe after he woke up their baby, (this may seem extreme when you haven’t had a baby in the house, but those who have would understand this young mother’s frustration, and think it a miracle that this kind of murder doesn’t happen more often). The last of the main case histories in this story is the brutal and seemingly random murder of a bright young woman at her father’s workplace.
Understandably, the lives of each of the remaining family members in these cases is changed forever.
Two sisters of the child who disappeared are desperate to learn what happened to their beloved little sister, although that doesn’t stop these women in their forties from constantly bickering and trying to score points from each other.
The now grown up sister of the young mother imprisoned for the murder of her husband is searching for her niece.
The father of the murdered girl wants to know who killed his daughter and why they did it.
Jackson Brodie, a Private Investigator who used to be a Police Inspector becomes involved in each of these cold cases in a professional capacity. He is the only common thread in the stories which become loosely entwined as you get further into the story.
Jackson is a great main character who suffered a sad loss in his own family. Jackson’s daughter Marlee is probably the only really joyful character in the whole book, and her funny little personality balanced out some of the sorrows and shocks in this story.
The characters are funny, and likeable, and annoying, and sympathetic and shocking. I was genuinely surprised in the way some of the mysteries in the case histories were resolved, or in some cases, not resolved. Everything I thought I knew or discovered during the reading of this novel was handed to me by the author when she was good and ready, and not before. Some of the answers to the mysteries were very complicated and others weren’t satisfying, but my enjoyment of the characters in this book made up for this.
I believe Kate Atkinson has another novel featuring Jackson Brodie and I’m looking forward to reading it too.