I often have problems with crime fiction series. I love the idea of returning to an interesting world in the company of a well-loved character, but often the expectation of enjoyment engendered by the previous books in a series doesn't continue to be met. Well, with this series it's a matter of so far, so good. In fact, maybe it's so far, so much better. Admittedly, this is only Atkinson's third novel to feature Jackson Brodie, but it is probably my favourite to date.
This is not traditional crime fiction. The action does not always focus on Jackson Brodie and he doesn't necessarily resolve all of the issues. In this novel, he shares the action with Reggie (a smart, resourceful teenager) and Joanna (the survivor of horrific childhood events). As with the earlier novels in the series, Atkinson moves the narrative along using shifting perspectives and overlapping time frames. The plot relies heavily on random connections and the layering of coincidences. In the hands of a less skilled writer, this could lead to some heavy eye-rolling. However, in my view, Atkinson makes it work. The sense of life being a puzzle, where the different pieces appear unconnected but are all required to complete the picture is a theme of Atkinson's writing; it's kind of like a literary six degrees of separation game. The fact the Atkinson writes clear, elegant prose and realistic (and often very witty) dialogue also contributes to the quality of the work.
Atkinson's style will not appeal to everyone. A reader whose taste runs to traditional police procedural style crime fiction may not like her books at all. A reader who struggles with random coincidences being an essential part of the narrative may dismiss the plot as completely implausible - which it is, on any close (or even not so close) analysis. But Atkinson's style appeals to me a lot. I like that even her most appealing characters are flawed. I like that she does not tie up everything in a neat bundle, but leaves some things unexplained. That can be unsettling in crime fiction, but it's the way it is in life.
It's going to take me a while to tire of this series. In fact, there's every chance I won't tire of Jackson Brodie and his world for as long as Atkinson chooses to keep creating it. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Started Early, Took My Dog.
This was a most enjoyable buddy read with my friends Jemidar and Anna.