Monday, June 22, 2009

When Will There Be Good News?

When Will There Be Good News? is Kate Atkinson’s third Jackson Brodie novel and in it, as she did in the first two Brodie novels, Atkinson successfully keeps several seemingly unrelated plot lines in the air long enough to bring them all together at the end for another of her rousing climaxes. Kate Atkinson is one hell of a juggler - she never drops anything.

The book begins on a rather normal day for a small town mother and her three young children, a day during which something will go terribly wrong, so wrong that only one of the four will survive it. Flash forward some thirty years and sixteen-year-old Reggie Chase, who looks more like twelve and has no one to look after her, is happily taking care of Dr. Joanna Hunter’s toddler son every day while the doctor works at the local clinic. Reggie gets along so well with Dr. Hunter and her baby that she feels the Hunter family to be a replacement for the one she no longer has.

Joanna Hunter, although she does not know the truth about Reggie’s personal life, thinks of Reggie more as a friend and younger sister than as an employee. The same, however, cannot be said for Joanna’s husband, Neil, a man so concerned with his business affairs that he barely acknowledges Reggie’s existence unless he needs her to cover his absence by staying longer into the evening with the baby.

Retired detective Jackson Brodie, in the meantime, is unwittingly hurtling toward his own personal chaos in Edinburgh, an accident that will put him out of commission and wondering who he is for a goodly portion of When Will There Be Good News? In Edinburgh, Brodie’s former love interest, DCI Louise Monroe, recently promoted and recently married, is beginning an investigation into the business affairs of Dr. Hunter’s husband while trying to locate the recently released prisoner responsible for destroying the young Mason family thirty years earlier.

So there you have it: one family already destroyed, a self-sufficient teen looking to replace the family she herself recently lost, a conscientious doctor married to an unscrupulous businessman, an Edinburg DCI charged with investigating that businessman, and Jackson Brodie headed their way in a rush. Jackson Brodie plays a smaller role in When Will There Be Good News? then his fans will expect in a “Jackson Brodie novel,” but what happens when he does finally come front and center will not disappoint readers of the two previous Brodie books.

Kate Atkinson has a way of creating characters, no matter how eccentric they may be, that take on lives of their own. Her characters, even the minor ones, are so finely developed that they become real and memorable. However, the real fun of one of Atkinson’s Brodie novels comes from watching her pull so many loose threads together in a way that makes perfect sense by the end of her story. She manages a complex plot as well as anyone, and I am looking forward to “Brodie 4” and her next juggling act.

Rated at: 4.0

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