After reading Life After Life, A God in Ruins and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, I would probably shell out good money to read this author’s shopping list. Finding When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson made me very happy.
Dr Jo Hunter is the central character in When Will There Be Good News. At the age of six, Jo’s mother, sister and baby brother were violently killed in a random act of violence.
Jo grew up, became a doctor, married and had a baby of her own, which is when the present day story begins. Jo is kind, loving and charismatic, exactly the type of person everyone wants to be, or to be friends with.
Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe enters the story when she warns Jo that the killer is about to be released from jail. When Jo and her baby go missing, Jo’s nanny, Reggie, is the only person who seems truly concerned about Jo’s welfare. Jo’s husband tells everyone she has gone to visit her aunt, but Reggie is not convinced by his story.
Reggie is a 16 year old orphan. She is brave, smart and resourceful, although she is tested almost to her limits by her brother, who is the worst kind of petty criminal. When a major train derailment in which a number of people die, Reggie saves the life of Jackson Brodie. Also on the train was the man who killed Jo’s mother, sister and brother.
I realise I’m describing a cast of what seems like thousands, but they are all in the story for good reason.
Jackson Brodie is a former police officer who is now a private detective. Jackson lost his memory in the accident, but when he recovered, Reggie employs Jackson to help her find Jo.
If the name Jackson Brodie sounds familiar, it is because he was also the main character in Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, although When Will There Be Good News stands alone.
There are a number of other stories going on at the same time, with a woman and her children hiding from her crazy husband, a married couple who don’t appear to be well matched, an old love affair which the reader hopes will revive, several cases of mistaken identity and more.
The characters in When Will There Be Good News are connected and interconnected in a number of complex and sometimes surprising ways. Usually coincidences in stories seem to be an easy way out of a problem for the author but in this story the way the characters connected felt inevitable. All of the character’s stories are satisfyingly pulled together in the end.
Jo, Reggie, Louise and Jackson are wonderful characters, all of whom I instantly liked and felt sympathy for. Although the title of the book says it all, the characters are funny and endearing, while the story is uplifting and left me feeling hopeful that this set of characters would eventually experience good news of their own.