Friday, May 25, 2007

Murder in Cambridge

After reading Kate Atkinson's 'A good turn - a jolly murder mystery' I got to like her writing. Years ago I had read 'Behind the scenes at the British Museum' and not cared for it that much, so I had viewed anything else written by her with a degree of suspicion. But the 'good turn' had been great, and not just because it was set in Edinburgh.

So I picked up her other detective novel 'Case Histories'. It's set in Cambridge and introduces us for the first time to Jackson Brodie, a private detective (and ex-policeman, naturally). The book starts with three very different stories of someone's sudden demise or disappearance, and it seems that the stories are totally unconnected. And perhaps to some degree they are, with Brodie being the connecting agent - but yet, here and there, cross - connections begin to form, too. Strangely, for a detective story, one or two loose ends are left at the end - the reader knows what they are, but the detective does not realise what has happened (he does not even meet some of the people involved).

Atkinson is wonderful at writing from each character's point of view, and while most of the characters are relatively middle-class, making this job a bit easier, it's great how she gets into their minds and considers all that is happening from the different standpoints, sometimes repeating the same event through different pairs of eyes. Of course, and this goes without saying, none of the characters are one-dimensional; they all have very complicated inner lives and live their own interpretations of what has happened, in most cases many years ago.

Setting it in Cambridge is very nice, too, especially if you have been there, though inevitably it leads to comparisons with Morse. And like Morse, Brodie has a complicated love life, though at least he has once been married once and produced a child. Unlike Morse, he is not into classical music.

It's a great read; and quite a fast read - not quite as complex or long as the Edinburgh story, but very pleasant nevertheless. Highly recommendable!