When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
Little Brown and Company, ISBN 978-0316154857
September 24, 2008, 338 pages
Thirty years ago, six-year-old Joanna Mason was the victim of a terrible crime. Her mother and siblings are murdered by a stranger with a knife as they walk along a rural lane, and only Joanna escapes. It is one of the most gripping openings to a book that I remember.
Now, decades later, the man who committed the crime is about to be released from prison and police, in the person of Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, is dispatched to warn Joanna.
Then we have sixteen-year-old Reggie Chase, a smart girl with more than a few secrets, who gets a job working as a nanny for Dr. Hunter and her husband. She loves the job and she loves Dr. Hunter and her young charge. So when the two go missing, with a flimsy explanation from her husband, Reggie feels she must help to find her. Did I mention that Dr. Hunter's maiden name was Joanna Mason? Yes, that six year old survivor, 30 years later has disappeared with her own young child and no one, least of all her husband, seems concerned.
And finally we have Jackson Brodie, ex-police inspector, ex-husband and ex-PI, off on a personal journey that become a matter of life and death when he boards the wrong train, one hurtling toward disaster.
This is the third Jackson Brodie installment, in a series that now contains four books and a very good installment it is.
Atkinson has this wonderful ability to tell these different stories, each great on its own, and gradually blend them all together in a seamless, satisfying way that the reader will never quite see coming..and I love it. There are so many ways that these stories all come together, intersect. For example, there is the fact that Reggie, who is house sitting for her dying Latin teacher, saves Brodie's life and then hires him to find her missing doctor and child. And this is not the first time Brodie and DCI Monroe have met, bringing their own past to the story.
But I will leave the rest of the interlocking threads for you to discover yourself. Not the least because it is great fun, as you start to see how they will tie together! Some you might see coming, but I guarantee there are many that will take you by surprise. As Brodie often says "A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen." and Atkinson is the queen of coincidence and making it all seem very believable.
Jackson Brodie is a great character, in his heart, a man who can't "rest until the flock was accounted for, all gathered safely in. It was his calling and his curse. Protect and serve.” But he is far from the only excellent character in this book. In fact, there are so many good characters I couldn't name them all, but without question Reggie Chase, that 16 year old girl is an outstanding one. She has had a tragic life and she is not beyond a little moral sleight of hand and looking the other way to create a better future..and you will not mind one bit I think. She is smart and funny and resourceful and the heart of this book.
Yes, it is another series that is best read in order, starting with Case Histories, One Good Turn, them this one, When Will There Be Good News and finishing with Started Early, Too My Dog .
Now, I will admit that I did not do that. I read the last one first when it first came out and I paid the price a bit in this book. I knew something that happens in Brodie's personal life that gave away part of the excellent ending. Granted it was not a big issue..honestly I forgot what happen to a degree. But not ideal. So don't do as I did, do as I say, and start with the first.
You will not be disappointed!