13 February 2012

Dan was right, again

A couple years ago, Dan Conrad said that Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? was one of the best books he'd read that year.

I've had mixed experiences with Atkinson's novels. Case Histories was really good. I couldn't even convince myself to finish Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The last half of Started Early, Took My Dog was good, but it took me a lot of work to get to the good bits.

Hoping for the best, I picked up Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? the last time I was at the Northfield Library.

I was confused at the beginning, not because of how Atkinson wrote it, but beause I thought I'd already read the book. But I knew I hadn't read this one. Finally, I remembered that the stories in this book were in one of the BBC productions called Case Histories. The BBC producers created a miniseries out of the first three novels featuring Jackson Brodie. The setting of the first scenes in When Will There Be Good News? was different from the televised version, but the basic story was the same. Confusion resolved I read on.

There were fewer characters waved around as red herrings in the beginning than in Atkinson's other books, so I found it easier to keep track of what was going on. I also had vague memories of the television version, but I didn't remember a lot of details. I'm glad I didn't, because it made reading the stories better.

There are three stories in the book that revolve around the main characters. And there are interesting connections between the characters -- as there are in the other novels Atkinson has written.

I agree with Dan. This is the best of Atkinson's books I have read so far. Jackson Brodie, the "star" of several books, is relegated to a minor role in most of this book. He's in the hospital after nearly being killed in a train wreck. Not to worry, he heals enough and becomes a vital part of resolving things. And he's the victim of major fraud.

Brodie survives the train wreck because of first aid applied by a 16-year-old who was staying at her tutor's house next to the tracks. The tutor's car accident caused the train wreck. The teenager is also a nanny for a doctor and her baby. The doc and the baby go missing under suspicious circumstances. One of Brodie's old flames, still on the police force, is the lead investigator in that case. Oh, and the young nanny also has a brother who is dealing heroin and not being honest with his suppliers. Just to bring things full circle, there's a 30-year-old back story that ties the doctor to Jackson Brodie.

Jackson Brodie survived the train wreck and the loss of his wealth. The teenager who was the link between all the stories inherited part of her tutor's estate and is headed to university. The doc and her baby survived and got some revenge. There are loose ends that lead to the next book.

More Kate Atkinson? We'll see. There's so much to read and not enough time.

Have you read When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought about it.

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