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Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
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A-When Will There Be Good NewsPrivate detective Jackson Brodie returns in Kate Atkinson’s latest fast-paced thriller (after Case Histories, 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2005 and One Good Turn, 3 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2007), but Atkinson has announced that this will be his final performance.

The Story: Dr. Joanna Hunter has it all—a thriving Edinburgh practice, a beautiful home, and a new baby—until the day she receives some chilling news: the man who slaughtered her family 30 years before has been paroled, and the police have lost track of him. When Joanna disappears, her shady businessman husband claims she has gone to visit a sick aunt. Only her troubled teenaged nanny, Reggie Chase, is worried, and she begs the reluctant police to investigate. After a freak train accident embroils private detective Jackson Brodie in the hunt for Joanna, the fissures in her seemingly idyllic life begin to widen, threatening to engulf them all.
Little, Brown. 388 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316154857

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"As with the previous two installments, Case Histories (2004) and One Good Turn (2006), Atkinson’s latest mystery is the literary equivalent of an MC Escher drawing in its labyrinthine, yet holistic, architecture. … [During the final 100 pages], the Scottish author has intertwined the disparate plot strands in such an ingenious fashion that it’s almost as if she’s effortlessly walking a tightrope while juggling and humming into a kazoo." Stephen Humphries

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Kate Atkinson’s latest book begins with a brutal murder and features abductions, arson and actual bodily harm, but it’s no airport thriller—instead, an intricately crafted tale of coincidence and fate, love and longing. … As in the best crime fiction, dramatic events and unexpected twists abound, but Atkinson subverts the genre by refusing to neatly tie up every thread." Rebecca Armstrong

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In a novel full of quotations (both literary and nursery-rhyme), Latin references, famous titles and occasionally brilliant movie allusions (Ms. Atkinson happily updates the ‘crisscross’ plot device from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train), every part of the story has a parallel somewhere else. … By the way, none of these bonus features diverts either author or reader from the book’s main investigative plot." Janet Maslin

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"The Brodie books are no less enjoyable than Atkinson’s Whitbread Award—winning Behind the Scenes at the Museum. At the end of When Will There Be Good News?, some hearts are newly broken while others are mending, and the reader is satisfied that the unfolding has been well worth a lost night of sleep." Helen Verongos

Telegraph (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Atkinson’s carefully observed world, though brutal, is redeemed by love and affection. … So, put very simply, the answer to the title is: when you buy this insightful, often funny, life-affirming novel." Lucy Beresford

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Thank God, in these hard times, for a cheerful, ghoulish, gory book like this. … This is a grand mystery, with plenty of misdeeds and overwrought coincidences, as well as quotes from Scots ballads, old nursery rhymes and the classics, so you can feel edified while being creeped out—as you wait for that happy ending we all long for, and think we deserve." Carolyn See

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Lovers of the crime genre have given Atkinson a hard time for her use of coincidence, and truth be told, the first half of When Will There Be Good News? can be a little hard to swallow. … [The novel] acknowledge[s] archly that we are participating in a work of fiction and that the rules are different here, but [it’s] also working towards a greater truth than simple realism allows: how intertwined are we, as family, as lovers, as humans? How much are we governed by circumstances beyond our control?" Patrick Ness

Critical Summary

Critics greeted the return of Jackson Brodie enthusiastically, and many stated that When Will There Be Good News? is the best installment of the three-book series. Atkinson’s mysteries develop naturally from her charmingly flawed characters and display her keen insight into human nature. Her control of the plot is absolute: it ratchets up the tension while the narrative accelerates to breakneck speeds. Atkinson’s razor-sharp humor and literary games add to the fun without distracting from the story. A few critics lamented the heavy use of coincidences and mistaken identities, but the Guardian perceived an added layer of meaning to such plot contrivances. Readers are forewarned: they may not be able to put down this riveting, entertaining, and clever novel until they’ve turned the final page.

Also by the Author

Case Histories (2004): PI Jackson Brodie finds his hands full when he starts to investigate three crimes that occurred in the 1970s around London. Brodie has his own tortured past, and the cases he is working address how fate divides and reunites families and how our painful yet comedic condition leads us on an endless search for closure.