Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kate Atkinson's Case Histories: rooting for a character

I LIKE mystery novels, especially the ones that are hard to figure out. Except that (and I say this with all humility) I usually figure out who the killers are at the story's beginning; the trick is to look for the unlikely characters. That I've been right after all gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the book. It only takes a short Agatha Christie novel to bring me back to earth, though—I can never really figure her out, and I haven't been correct in my predictions.

The joy in reading mystery novels reaches its climax when you eventually find a character to root for. This offers more pleasure than knowing who the killer is. And Kate Atkinson's Case Histories gave me a character to cheer for—a certain Jackson Brodie, a private investigator. Divorced, retired as a police officer, now operating his own detective agency, with a secretary who nags at him daily: he's the right man for the job. His daughter Marlee is funny. During her weekly visits to him, she accompanies him to crime scenes and places where children aren't usually allowed.

Kate Atkinson writes beautifully—there's no other way to put it. Her language is accessible, her words well-chosen. She is able to dig deep into the human psyche. Her characters have so much depth, and so much goes on in every page. It doesn't get confusing, though. She is humorous, and the perennially antagonistic conversations of Amelia and Julia are fertile grounds for laughter.

Last night I watched the BBC series of Case Histories. Doesn't do much justice to the story, but the English landscape is breathtaking.

2 comments:

  1. Have you tried any PD James, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout? They're my favorite mystery writers---more for their characters than the plot, thought most of their plots are good, too.

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    1. I have a PD James book. I must start on it soon. Thanks for recommending Sayers and Stout—I'll be on the lookout for their works.

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