Thursday, May 26, 2005

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case Histories is a novel. I was not sure at first as the first three cases (chapters) seemed in no way related and seemed to me to be complete stories in an economic way. Was I listening to a gory collection of short stories with sudden plot twists? I had to double check the box for the compact discs to see “novel” attached to the title. I continued to listen.

Now that I have finished listening to Case Histories I still question the novel label. The author ties the three cases together by employing two more, and Jackson Brody, the former policeman and struggling private investigator, who is central to case four, eventually solves all the mysteries in cases one, two, and three. The book proves to be a novel in that it is one imaginary world inhabited by many loosely related victims and survivors, but I wonder why it is not labeled as a mystery. There are three unsolved crimes and an investigator seeking answers, and readers continue reading (listening) to learn who committed the murders. I am surprised that no library I know has classified it as a mystery. Is the book too “literary” to be a mystery? I know some libraries in the past put P. D. James books in fiction because they had qualities beyond most mysteries. Is Case Histories getting the same treatment?

What about case five? I think I will leave that for you to discover on your own. My advice for readers is look for a blue mouse, a yellow golfing sweater, and a gold Lexus.

Case Histories is the book being discussed on the Litblog Co-op blog.

Atkinson, Kate. Case Histories: A Novel. New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2004. ISBN 0316740403

Compact discs: Hampton, NH : BBC Audiobooks America, 2004. ISBN 0792733835

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