Saturday, November 25, 2006
Beginning of Kate Atkinson's detective "series"
When I saw reviews of Kate Atkinson's new novel, One Good Turn, featuring a detective named Jackson Brodie, I picked up a copy of the first book about this character, Case Histories. I'd read a "postmodern" novel of hers before, Emotionally Weird, which also includes a detective character, named Chick, in her "metafictional" universe. Emotionally Weird is funny, clever, and effective as a novel or an essay on the novel, but it's not crime fiction. Case Histories is and is not crime fiction. It reads like a cross between the "serious" fiction of a novelist like Anne Tyler (with close focus on quirky characters, their families, and the misery therein) and an English cozy mystery--with an overlay of the urban noir novel. Brodie's detective work is essential to the development of the plot, but hardly on center stage most of the time. It seems to take him a very long time to get started on his investigation of the 3 intertwined "case histories." He never gets around to one of them, the solution to which is right in front of him. Case Histories is not as much about crime as about emotional ties and about the destructive behavior of some people who should be nurturing those ties. But its not a book about misery, it's about coping, and there's a liberal dose of wit to leaven things. One Good Turn sounds, in the reviews, like a combination of Case Histories and Emotionally Weird, taking the complexities of Jackson Brodie's first appearance to a new level. I'm looking forward to it. Anybody have any comments about Atkinson, Jackson Brodie, or "serious" novelists venturing into crime fiction?