Annnnywaaay, the not-sleeping from the prednisone is working in my favour because I'm getting a lot of reading done. Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News, the third novel to feature Jackson Brodie, kept me company well into Christmas eve when everyone should have been sleeping while awaiting a visit from ye old guy in the red suit. Another brilliantly paced, densely plotted, utterly readable novel from one of the most refreshing writers working in genre fiction today.
Kate Atkinson has a gift with voice. She manages to keep three distinct and different characters alive within the narrative without falling down once in terms of their particular stories. Jackson Brodie's still bent, still broken, and still having trouble with women in this novel, but there's an added tragedy that lands him in Edinburgh. This catastrophic event also causes him to land back into the life of DI Louise Munroe and she encounters him in the oddest of places, stuck in the oddest of situations. Tying them both together is Reggie, a sixteen-year-old girl who hasn't had the easiest of lives, but she's plucky, resourceful and kind of reminds me a little of Thebes.
As the story barrels along, their personal lives gets mixed up in the mystery, Reggie's employer, a doctor who suffered an unspeakable tragedy when she was a young girl, goes missing. Reggie needs to convince DI Munroe that she's actually been kidnapped and Jackson finds himself right smack in the middle after the young girl tears herself into his life. The central mystery in the novel is coupled with a disaster of epic proportions -- a train crash -- that muddles up identities, destroys lives and propels the action in ways that one wouldn't expect. The way its described in the novel conjures up Unbreakable in so much as you can hear the metal as much as the terror in your mind as you read along.
Never trite or contrived, Atkinson's endings are thought out in ways that ensure they're as pragmatic as her prose. The characters don't employ any kind of revolutionary change. They get on with life as life gets on with them and it's Atkinson's refreshingly unadorned style of writing that ensures the success of this novel.
READING CHALLENGES: For a moment I had thought that Atkinson was Scottish, which meant I could have added a country to the Around the World in 52 Books challenge. But as she's British and I've already got England covered, that pipe dream gets washed away with the tide (how about a mixed metaphor for a lazy post-holiday Saturday?).
WHAT'S UP NEXT: From a previous post: "Here's my stack: "
STRANGE ASIDES: My RRHB and I watched an old Albert Finney film the other day, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which is mentioned in the book. Had we not seen it at the exact moment when we did (moments before crawling into bed with the book), I would have missed the reference completely. Thank you universe.