Sunday, January 1, 2012

Orange January - Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Orange Prize association: Long listed in 2005

Case HistoriesCase Histories details three cases (from the GoodReads summary):

Case One: Olivia Land, youngest and most beloved of the Land girls, goes missing in the night and is never seen again. Thirty years later, two of her surviving sisters unearth a shocking clue to Olivia's disappearance among the clutter of their childhood home. . . 

Case Two: Theo delights in his daughter Laura's wit, effortless beauty, and selfless love. But her first day as an associate in his law firm is also the day when Theo's world turns upside down. . . 

Case Three: Michelle looks around one day and finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making. A very needy baby and a very demanding husband make her every waking moment a reminder that somewhere, somehow, she'd made a grave mistake and would spend the rest of her life paying for it--until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape. 

All three cases are linked to Detective Jackson Brodie throughout the book, but his presence isn't dominant within the text like a detective's story would usually be. In fact, he doesn't do his job in front of us all of the time. Clues are sometimes presented and the reader is left to make the necessary assumptions. "Oh, that means that X, and he must have X." He usually has done these things, but he never is described as doing them.  Since the author did not necessarily consider this book to be in the mystery genre (according to an interview with her in the back of the book), the reader should not be surprised that the form of the book does not follow mystery novel conventions such as case details being articulated, or conclusions drawn. 

The action is often happening "off stage," to an extent where I'm wondering what was in the novel I actually read! It actually manages to focus on two of the Land sisters and the conflict between the two of their personalities, and on the huffing puffing overweight retired lawyer, Theo. These are two of the three families who lost family members to murder, so while the cold cases are being investigated by Brodie, that isn't the story as much as the people making up the majority of this novel. It is an interesting angle. Atkinson has gone on to write more Jackson Brodie novels, so this successful volume becomes the first in a series. 


  1. I haven't heard of this book, or the Jackson Brodie novels.
    I can't wait to see what you think of The Tiger's Wife. We'll compare notes.
    Happy New Year!

  2. This is one of the only Orange books that I have never felt the urge to read. I really don't think I would enjoy it.

    The Tiger's Wife I am very interested in though - looking forward to your thoughts on it.


Thanks for visiting the Reading Envy blog and podcast. Word verification has become necessary because of spam.