Now I have read this book before so when it was chosen for book club I was disappointed as I didn’t fancy reading it again, especially after being disappointed by the BBC’s recent dramatisation of some of the other books in the series. However it took me less than the first chapter to be completely hooked. Fortunately I could not remember all of the plot and I was taken in by Atkinson’s fantastic story, witty humour and literary references.
Like all of her Jackson Brodie books Atkinson deals with extremely dark subject matter in a humourous way. The story opens with a mother and two of her young children being horrifically murdered whilst walking down a country lane in Devon. The story then flash forwards about thirty years to Edinburgh to focus on the life of poor sixteen year old Reggie Chase, her mother has died, her brother is a criminal and her only respite is looking after the child of Dr Hunter or being tutored by the batty Ms MacDonald.
It is filled with literary references such as Louise comparing herself to being flawed like the Golden Bowl and humourous word play such as about the Yorkshire town, Hawes/Whores, mistaking a discussion about William Morris for a gay friend called Maurice or;
“I think there might have been a nephew or a niece but they were, you know whats it called ?Like ‘strangled’
“Yeah that’s it”.
Louise’s embittered views on men are always entertaining; “Twenty years ago she would have found his moodiness attractive, now she just wanted to punch him”
or one of my favourite lines;
“The mug had written on it Washed in the blood of the lamb “Not the mug, obviously that was washed in fairy liquid””
Since becoming an animal lover convert I have noticed that similar to her subsequent novel, Started Early, Took my Dog there seem to be lots of references to dogs, almost every key character has one, including even references to Hitler’s love for his dog, and the heartbreaking reference to the first dog in space Laika;
“She was rescued from an animal centre, she must have thought that she was going to a home, to a family, and instead they sent her to the loneliest death in the world” .
As in all the Jackson Brodie novels the character are all linked together in an almost implausible way, but as the characters say; “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen”. This is a great story and a really interesting read. I enjoyed this book even though at the end you aren’t really sure if it is actually a happy or tragic ending for many of the characters. Maybe the bittersweet and humourous aspect of these novels is what makes them so different from ordinary crime novels.