Investigating other people's tragedies and cock-ups and misfortunes was all he knew. He was used to being a voyeur, the outsider looking in, and nothing, but nothing, that anyone did surprised him any more. Yet despite everything he'd seen and done, inside Jackson there remained a belief - a small, battered and bruised belief - that his job was to help people be good rather than punish them for being bad.'
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. His days are full of people clamouring for answers and explanations. A jealous husband suspects his wife. Two spinster sisters make a shocking find. A solicitor investigates an old murder. A nurse has lost her niece; a widow, her cats.
Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and has a failed marriage to prove it. He is forty-five but feels much, much older. He is at that dangerous age when men suddenly notice that they're going to die eventually, inevitably, and there isn't a damn thing they can do about it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life is brought sharply into focus.
Ingeniously plotted, full of suspense and heartbreak, CASE HISTORIES is a feat of bravura storytelling that conveys the mysteries of life, its inanities and its hilarities. It is a life-affirming work of profound insight and intelligence.
Reading Group Book Questions
About The Author
- The three cases that open Case Histories are at first quite separate, and leave you wondering how Atkinson is going to pull it all together into one story. Discuss whether she is successful in doing this – and how.
- Case Histories has three unsolved crimes and a private eye as the hero. Kate Atkinson is known as a ‘literary writer’ and won the Whitbread Prize for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. How is Case Histories different from a traditional detective novel – or is it?
- Jackson believes ‘that his job was to help people be good rather than punish them for being bad’. Do you think he is a moral character, and how do you feel the revelation of the tragedy in his own past illuminates his actions in the novel?
- To Jackson, it seems as if everyone he encounters has lost someone or something. One of Kate Atkinson’s recurrent themes is that of lost children. In spite of her wicked sense of humour, she creates an overwhelming sense of tension in the novel. Is this theme effective because it speaks directly to the lost child deep inside every one of us?
Kate Atkinson's Case Histories introduced the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who made a welcome return in One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?
(voted Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year) and Started Early, Took My Dog
. The first three Brodie novels have been adapted into a successful BBC TV series starring Jason Isaacs.
She won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum
, and has been a critically acclaimed international author ever since. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours list.
"Her best book yet, an astonishingly complex and moving literary detective story that made me sob but also snort with laughter. It's the sort of novel you have to start rereading the minute you've finished it" * Guardian *
"Sharp humour, together with a number of unexpected twists makes this a typically pacey and intelligent read" * Daily Mail *
"A greedy feast of a story by a masterful author...A profound, exciting and lingering read" * Daily Express *
"Triumphant...Her best book yet...A tragi-comedy for our times" * Sunday Telegraph *
"To read it is to enter a hall of mirrors...Part complex family drama, part mystery, it winds up having more depth and vividness than ordinary thrillers and more thrills than ordinary fiction...A wonderfully tricky book" * New York Times *