by Kate Atkinson
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316066745
- ISBN-13: 978-0316066747
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0
Book DescriptionReview: This is a twisting mystery presented with a wonderful literary bent.
Publication Date: October 6, 2011
Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective-a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other-or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge.
Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue-that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished.
The book begins with the poem “For want of a nail the shoe was lost....” The story then proceeds to follow circumstances surrounding the disappearance of children and how the ultimate impact. There are two stories intertwined by the character connections.
Tracy Waterhouse, a large awkward girl, was new to the police department in 1975. Tracy and her partner discover a murdered prostitute, and small boy who had been abandoned for weeks. Tracy keeps trying to follow-up regarding the child but reaches a dead end being told that he has been sent off to an orphanage and records are sealed.
In current day retired Tracy spots a woman she knows as a prostitute, druggie and thief, verbally abusing a child as she drags her through the mall. Tracy impulsively buys the little girl and decides she will liquidate her assets, move far away and raise the child as her own. A witness to the exchange is a sweet elderly actress, Tillie, who is going senile and mixing her screen life with real life.
Meanwhile Jackson Brodie, a retired policeman, semi-retired Private Investigator, is searching for the identity of a client who has learned her past is false. The leads have sent Jackson to interview a social worker and several police officers who handled the death of a prostitute and an orphaned child in 1975. One of those officers is Tracy. As Jackson sets out he sees a man abusing a dog and manages to acquire the dog to take along his investigation.
Tracy is afraid that one of her former co-workers is on her heels. As she and the child are slipping away from her house they stumble into Jackson who agrees to give them a ride.
Ironically Jackson is not the only one looking into the 1975 murder incident. A real P.I., Brian Jackson, is searching on behalf another client who may have connection to the 1975 event.
The story isn’t straight forward and it took a few chapters to recognize that it was going to bounce around. It requires patience and attention to keep track. The author weaves from past to present and through the lives and memories of the characters who were involved in 1975 and in current day events as the past starts to unravel. There are paralleling features in the two time lines as the characters criss-cross with twists and surprise suspects.
I really liked the detailed description of circumstances with purposes and nuances that portray the emotions of the characters. There is wonderfully sardonic humor throughout the book. The author uses poetry, play and literary references that add interest and fit nicely with the mind flow of the story. The writing has a very different feel to me ... almost ethereal or “misty” which seemed fitting to the puzzle of the mystery. The facts are tied up at the end although the future is left open and that too fits the story. There is an interesting Reading Group Guide at the end.
This is the first Kate Atkinson book I have read but I will definitely seek out other works. If you like mysteries you should try this book. Just don’t expect a straight forward path of clues but be prepared for a path that includes prosaic and meandering mind trails along with investigative twists and literary pearls.
A favorite quote:
“The interrupted journey, the unexpected gift, the unforseen encounter. Life had its plots.”
Thank you to Hachette - Little Brown & Co. for this book to read and review.
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