Case Histories is more than a cold-case crime novel. It is an intricately woven plot involving three seemingly unrelated murders, set in Cambridge, England. Kate Atkinson presents her characters’ issues of fatherhood, divorce, angst, abuse, parenting, incest, dysfunction, frustration, betrayal, fitting in, loneliness, and self-esteem – just about every human emotion and relationship – in a well-crafted story, which resolves in a most satisfying ending.
The disappearance of a three-year-old girl in 1970, the murder of a beloved daughter in 1994, and the murder of a husband in 1979 are the three tragedies into which private investigator, Jackson Brodie, becomes involved. The middle-aged Land sisters, Julia and Amelia, ask the former Cambridgeshire Constable to find out what happened to their baby sister Olivia, whose blue stuffed mouse they recently discovered in their just-deceased father’s desk drawer. Obese and distraught Theo Wyre, an attorney, needs Jackson to uncover who killed his younger daughter Laura a decade earlier, but all Brodie has to go on is that the man wore a yellow sweater. Attractive Shirley Morrison comes to Jackson wanting to find her niece, Tanya, who had been a baby when her mother, Michelle/Shirley’s sister, was imprisoned for murdering her husband/Tanya’s father. Shirley had been fifteen at the time and unable to care for the child. Although Michelle disappeared after being released from prison, Shirley is not interested in finding her. However, the unbalanced woman is revealed to the reader.
Several times during the investigations, Jackson has no choice but to bring along his nine-year-old daughter, Marlee, which does not sit well with Josie, his totally turned-around ex. Also, while digging through these cold cases, he reflects upon the 1971 murder of his older sister, Niamh, that occurred when he was twelve.
Into Atkinson’s complex mixture is added annoying and brash Binky Rain, a 90-year-old cat-lover, who has treated Jackson as her personal assistant for years. Binky also happens to live next door to the Land family and remembers the girls as pests, especially the oldest sister, Sylvia, who became a nun.
The way Kate Atkinson brings all these characters and events together is nothing short of remarkable. It is no wonder that Case Histories became a 2011 BBC crime drama, although the setting was relocated to Edinburgh. http://www.bbc.co.uk/mes/b011w4g0