This is the book to read after Case Histories https://vickychong.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/case-histories-by-kate-atkinson/and and but before Started Early, Took My Dog https://vickychong.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/started-early-took-my-dog-by-kate-atkinson/.
Effectively the second book of her detective series featuring Jackson Brodie, this books ties up nicely the questions I had asked in my book review for Started Early, Took My Dog .
The more I read about Jackson Brodie, the more charming I find him and could really fall for him myself. His first ex-wife Josie describes him as ‘you’ve always been the most uxorious of men.’ (uxorious: having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one’s wife), how can a woman resist such a man?
Like the other two books, Jackson is not alone in the puzzle solving. In fact, he is never really the central figure, although he features prominently enough in all three books. I can’t really describe this book as a thriller or a detective genre, for like Jackson, the mystery solving part is really just a side dish complementing a drama about human relationship that is both funny and touching.
This book is much easier to navigate than Started Early, Took My Dog, for the chapters here are clearly marked as from the point of view from three characters, Jackson, Reggie, a 16-year-old nanny, and Louise, Jackson’s friend from the police force except that they had never admitted their mutual attraction to each other.
Louise is protecting the lives of a family whose estranged father shot the extended family during his daughter’s birthday party. He was put away and set to be released any time now, and Louise is sure he is going back to kill them.
Reggie is the nanny for a one-year-old baby of Dr Joanna Hunter, nee Mason, whose own family of mother, elder sister and baby brother were killed by a man, and this man too is set to be free. Louise feels Joanna has the right to know about his due release. But Joanna disappears mysteriously one day, and Reggie is worried about the way she left.
Jackson is just married two months with his second wife Tessa away in Washington when he meets with a train crash after trying to establish paternity to Nathan, his son by Julia. Reggie saves him and persuades him to search for Joanna Hunter when she discovers that he is a private detective.
As in the other two books, Atkinson loves referring to Hitler when she compares evil and kindness/compassion. ‘It was surprising how much soppy, maternal love Ms MacDonald lavished on Banjo, but then Hitler was very fond of his dog. (‘Blondi’, Dr Hunter said. ‘She was called Blondi’.) I learn more about Hitler from Atkinson than anywhere else.
Like Reggie, I was also curious how Christians see about the ways people are chosen to die (I am agnostic). Was there a kind of lottery (Reggie imagines a tombolo) where God picked out your chosen method of going – ‘Heart attack for him, cancer for her, let’s see, have we had a terrible car crash yet this month?’ Not that Reggie believed in God, but it was interesting sometimes to imagine. Did God get out of bed one morning and drew back the curtains (Reggie’s imaginary God led a very domesticated life) and think, ‘A drowning in a hotel swimming pool today. I fancy. We haven’t had that one in a while.’ (How Reggie mother was killed.)
Atkinson’s wry humour makes me laugh. Jackson had a near death experience after the train crash. ‘I died,’ he said to a new doctor. ‘Briefly,’ she said dismissively as if you had to be dead a lot longer to impress her. And it’s this sort of straight-faced British humour that makes reading her book so enjoyable.
Lastly, I want to quote what in Jackson’s opinion is a how a woman should be, as he describes Tessa, his second wife, coming soon after his affair with Julia and his first wife, Josie. He couldn’t have designed a better woman. She was cheerful, optimistic and sweet. She was funny, even comical sometimes, and much smarter than he was but unlike the previous women in his life didn’t find it necessary to remind him of this fact at every turn….She was someone who didn’t need looking after but who nonetheless was properly grateful when he did look after her. She could drive and cook and even sew, knew how to do simple DIY, was surprisingly frugal but also knew how to be generous and was the mistress of at least two sexual positions that Jackson had never tried before (hadn’t even known existed, actually, but he kept that to himself). She was, in short, how God intended women to be.
I can’t wait to read her other books.