Reader’s Advisory: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

October 4, 2011

Who out there, having read one Kate Atkinson novel hasn’t wanted immediately to read them all? She’s like the proverbial Lay’s potato chip: you can’t read just one. So recommending that you go read Case Histories isn’t exactly heavy lifting for us and we’ll have the vicarious pleasure of knowing someone out there will be reading their first Atkinson novel–like the first taste of bacon, so good.

Case Histories is not Atkinson’s first novel; it’s her fourth. Her first, Behind The Scenes At The Museum was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995. It was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World (short stories), Case HistoriesOne Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog. We’re beginning with Case Histories because it has been filmed by the BBC and will debut here in the U.S., via PBS, on October 16th. Best to read the book first, as we always say.

From the jacket: “Cambridge is sweltering, during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, the world consists of one accounting sheet – Lost on the left, Found on the right – and the two never seem to balance.

Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and has a failed marriage to prove it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected… ”

Atkinson would be the first to say she’s uncomfortable with the classification of being a mystery or crime novelist–something which is mainly an occurrence here in America with our need to genre-fy authors. See her interview with Nancy Pearl. She thinks of herself as a novelist first who, in this series, needs a detective to carry out investigations for her character’s back stories. Read Case Histories as a novel, or read it as a detective story; it’s a win-win situation.