When Will There Be Good News? (Review)

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When Will There Be Good News?
Kate Atkinson, 2008
400 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2009

This is 3rd in the Jackson Brodie series—none of which are are typical of the genre. They're plot-driven like all detective novels, but Atkinson's are also rich in character development. Her pages are filled with the angst of orphaned characters—survivors of family tragedies—who feel alone on the planet and yearn for connection.

Atkinson provides the connection, stringing them together in a tightly knit world that overflows with coincidence, parallel events, and literary allusions. It's all accomplished with crackling wit and sharp insight.

The book opens with a grisly murder, leaving one little 6-year-old girl behind. It picks up 30 years later in Scotland with Jackson Brodie and a group of indelible characters—Dr. Joanna Hunter (the young girl from the prologue); 16-year-old Reggie Chase, a mother's helper; and Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, a former if brief love interest of Brodie now recently married to the perfect husband. The initial plot line is that the killer of the opening scene has just been released from jail. But the story spirals out from there.

We see events through the eyes of four characters, each with a complicated past and present. But Kate Atkinson juggles all the elements brilliantly and pulls them together into a rich whole. I love Atkinson's writing; it's sharp and funny. But she's also poignant as her characters struggle to cope with the pain that life all too readily deals out to us. I think book clubs will have terrific discussions surrounding these characters.

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