From Publishers Weekly
In this ambitious fourth novel from Whitbread winner Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum
), private detective Jackson Brodie—ex-cop, ex-husband and weekend dad—takes on three cases involving past crimes that occurred in and around London. The first case introduces two middle-aged sisters who, after the death of their vile, distant father, look again into the disappearance of their beloved sister Olivia, last seen at three years old, while they were camping under the stars during an oppressive heat wave. A retired lawyer who lives only on the fumes of possible justice next enlists Jackson's aid in solving the brutal killing of his grown daughter 10 years earlier. In the third dog-eared case file, the sibling of an infamous ax-bludgeoner seeks a reunion with her niece, who as a baby was a witness to murder. Jackson's reluctant persistence heats up these cold cases and by happenstance leads him to reassess his own painful history. The humility of the extraordinary, unabashed characters is skillfully revealed with humor and surprise. Atkinson contrasts the inevitable results of family dysfunction with random fate, gracefully weaving the three stories into a denouement that taps into collective wishful thinking and suggests that warmth and safety may be found in the aftermath of blood and abandonment. Atkinson's meaty, satisfying prose will attract many eager readers.
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*Starred Review* Like Donna Tartt in The Little Friend
(2002), 1995 Whitbread winner Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum
) here combines a compelling narrative drive with sophisticated psychological portraits and telling detail. Artfully exploiting the conventions of the detective novel while also sending them up, Atkinson gives us Jackson Brodie, the world's most empathic private eye, who seemingly channels his clients' grief while attempting to provide closure. Addicted to the plaintive songs of female country-and-western singers and heartsick over the breakup of his marriage and his separation from his daughter, Jackson becomes friend and confidant to the people who seek his aid. One of his cases involves the florid, bickering Land sisters, who, after cleaning out their father's house upon his death, are stunned to find the bedraggled blue bunny that was their sister's most prized possession before she went missing 30 years ago. Another case concerns lonely, obese Theo, who, out of concern for his daughter's safety, insisted that she work in his law office rather than as a bartender, only to find that he put her directly in harm's way. As Jackson methodically tracks down decades-old clues, Atkinson employs omniscient narration to step in and out of crime scenes both past and present. Playful humor, an impressive technique, and an offbeat detective with a penchant for weeping are the most obvious pleasures of a page-turner that succeeds in being both brainy and thoroughly entertaining. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved