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Book Review: When Will There Be Good news? Kate Atkinson

I feel a bit sad this is the last time I will have the opportunity to “hang” with Kate Atkinson’s wonderful creation, the ex-army, ex-cop and PI Jackson Brodie. It’s not that this novel is the last in the series, but because I read them out of order (and that doesn’t affect the quality of the narrative or pleasure a reader gains from the prose and overalWhen Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)l story arc), it’s the final one I get to enjoy until Atkinson pulls her keyboard out and gets another one written – and I wish she would tout de suite! Till them, it’s au revoir Jackson…

Just as well then that When Will There Be Good News is a fabulous, ripper of a read that incorporates a few narrative threads and some fascinating characters.

The novel opens with an idyllic scene of a mother and her three kids walking country lanes. Undercurrents involving marital discord quickly disturb this pastoral picture but not in a distressing way – more in that well, “life is like that” manner. When the chapter ends in utter tragedy and we’re catapulted thirty years hence, there’s a feeling of both horror and relief that we’re spared only, in typical and wonderful Atkinson fashion, we’re not because the past always, always infects the present and this novel is no different. Part of the sheer joy of reading is in seeing just how they are connected and what unfolds.

Enter Jackson Brodie who, hot on the heels of another failed relationship and the start of a new one is seeking proof of paternity. Travelling north to get the DNA required, it’s no surprise to those familiar with Brodie’s habits, that he ends up in the wrongest (is that a word?) of wrong places at the wrongest of wrong times with catastrophic consequences.

But it’s also his ability to do that –  turn up like a good penny –  that links the stories as does the wonderful character of teenage Reggie – a girl who, when all is said and done, should be morose, despondent and at the least an emo, but who is infected with both a fine mind and an indefatigable joy in life as well a loyalty that can only be found in the hound that ends up accompanying her everywhere. Oh, and in her employer who is a simply magnificent character. On reflection, Dr (call me “Jo”) Joanna is like an ice-berg… She presents a portion of herself to the world (and we discover the reasons for this), but it’s the seven-eights below the water to which we’re slowly introduced that offer threat and promise. But when you cannot see what lies below the surface, how do you know which it is? And what happens when parts float to the surface? (cue Jaws theme)…

I cannot give too much away here, but while Reggie connects the seemingly disparate threads of the novel, it’s the Dr who’s the heart of the tale – one that threatens to stop beating….

When Reggie and Jackson’s paths collide, you just know something important is going to occur. And it does and it’s brutal, soulful, and ultimately incredibly satisfying.

Add to this a mixture of amazing other characters, including the hard-nosed (but wanting love) DCI Louisa, and this is a stunning read. Sublimely written, neatly tied together, I couldn’t put this one down.

I just wish there was another JB to lose myself in again…

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