Thursday, August 04, 2011

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Title: When Will There Be Good News?
Author: Kate Atkinson
ISBN: 9780316154857
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2008
Hardcover, 400 pages
Genre: Private Investigator, #3 Jackson Brodie mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Gift

First Line: The heat rising up from the tarmac seemed to get trapped between the thick hedges that towered above their heads like battlements.

When Joanna Mason was six, she obeyed her mother and lived while all the rest of them died. Thirty years later, Jackson Brodie is on a crowded train that's running late when he hears a horrible sound. Sixteen-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little television at the end of a long day, but her peaceful evening is shattered. Luckily Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for emergencies.

Once again Kate Atkinson has created three living, breathing characters with absolutely nothing in common and then brought them together in such a way that you can't take your eyes off the page. From the very first Jackson Brodie book (Case Histories), I learned that Atkinson is a master plot weaver and a master at creating characters that you come to know better than you know yourself.

Jackson Brodie is in one of his usual muddles and finds himself in Scotland where Joanna Mason now lives as an adult with her husband and infant son. Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is a law unto herself and wouldn't be able to stay out of this book if her life depended on it. You see, she cares for Brodie even though she won't admit it.

To the mix of Brodie, Mason and Monroe add a sixteen-year-old who's an "unstoppable force of nature" and more than fierce enough to resemble a "Jack Russell fending off a pack of Dobermans." Young Reggie is the catalyst in this book, and she's a treasure. She single-handedly gets all the adults moving because she refuses to turn her back when she knows something is wrong. No one's ever been able to make Reggie understand that kids can't get results when they put their minds to it. (I'd love to see her as an adult!)

Each character takes a turn at telling us their side of the story, and it's the stream-of-consciousness story telling that allows us to get so far into each character's mind. Getting to know these wonderful characters almost makes the intricately woven plot surplus to requirements... almost. For, without the plot, Brodie and Louise and Joanna and Reggie wouldn't be able to meet and try to get everything put to rights again.

Reading one of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books is an experience to be savored. Her various plot threads and characters that slowly move together may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it's yours, please don't miss the pleasure of reading these excellent books.


  1. Cathy - As always, a fine review. You're quite right that Atkinson's characters come intensely real as a story moves on, and that's one thing I very much like about her work. I'm very glad you liked this one as much as you did.

  2. This is the only Atkinson book I have read and I must admit, the characters seemed a bit disingenuous to me. I haven't decided yet if I will try more of the Jackson Brodie mysteries.

  3. I loved your thoughts about this book and although I normally love this author...I strongly disliked this book...strongly...I disliked almostbevery character...

  4. Thank you iPad for putting a b in between every word I write...that should say every and not bevery!!!

  5. I really want to read this book - everyone seems to love it.

  6. I love character-driven stories so I think I should try this series. Poor Patty, I think her iPad really has it in for her, don't you?

  7. Mystica-- I am in total agreement!

    Margot-- There are very few authors whose characters can touch me in quite the same way as Atkinson's.

    Lola-- If you didn't like this one, I'd leave the others alone if I were you. They are very similar in style.

    Patty-- I'm going to have to take a look at your review to see why you disliked everyone so! (I had to use the backspace key there, since my keyboard added a sympathy "B" to the word "everyone"! LOL)

    Kathy-- Well... from the comments here, not quite everyone! :)

    Barbara-- Something like that would drive me around the twist, so I really sympathize with her!

  8. I absolutely loved this book, and I remember Reggie comparing the baby to a starfish :D

  9. Dorte-- I loved that description, too!

  10. Great review Cathy, I also enjoy Kate Atkinson's writing, read and reviewed this one last year.
    If you are looking to loose yourself in a suspense mystery with great characters then this can be recommended.

  11. LindyLou-- It tickles me to see reviews written of Atkinson's Brodie books that say they are too contrived... too many coincidences. I don't smile because I think they're wrong; I smile because of the ways each individual reader can interpret the same book!


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