Three unsolved and unrelated cases are introduced in the first three chapters of the book. Jackson Brodie, our detective protagonist
who, of course, has ex-wife issues and a precocious daughter, goes about solving each of these cases, which slowly are revealed to be connected.
This book starts out really well. Atkinson has a real gift for characterization, especially when she describes loss, grief, and frustration–and after the third chapter I was hooked, and curious to see where she’d go from that great set-up. There were a few characters in particular that were heartbreakingly realistic, in the beginning and throughout the book. There are a lot of insightful musings on love and loss by both the family members of the victims and the detective himself, which were pretty poignant.
But. There were at least two too many plotlines, and, ironically, just as Jackson starts tying the cases together, the storytelling starts falling apart. Atkinson introduces a few random characters and sub-plots that don’t get nearly enough time to develop. They’re probably meant to heighten the interconnectedness and drama, but they only confuse the reader and take time away from the other, more interesting and well-developed plotlines. I wish Atkinson had simply focused on one or two of the most interesting cases and expanded them into a full-length novel.
And toward the end, just as it starts feeling a little disjointed because of all the extra plots and characters, the style seemed becomes more abrupt and less satisfying. Chapters end on cliffhangers that aren’t resolved immediately, which I guess is fine, but feels manipulative, More annoyingly, when the resolutions to the cliffhangers are revealed a few chapters later, they are almost all underwhelming. (ie “and the killer is…” and then a few chapters later, “he had been wrong about who the killer was.”)
So this was a solid three for me. Fine on a long flight, some great vignettes, but it didn’t live up to its promise.