When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)

By Kate Atkinson

40,774 ratings - 4* vote

Three lives come together in unexpected and thrilling ways in Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News?On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his Three lives come together in unexpected and thrilling ways in Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good

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Book details

Hardcover, 400 pages
Original Title
When Will There Be Good News?
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Once again, Kate Atkinson has written a novel that fires off with sketched pencil outlines that gradually become filled in, fleshed out with colours both brilliant and ominous.

In this third (of five, so far) Jackson Brodie novel, we become re-acquainted with several returning characters. As I observed in her last novel, these characters are like streamers floating in an uncertain breeze suspended from a common source – a maypole perhaps – each one with their own backstory, their own tragic or sad or serendipitous histories. As the breeze becomes a wind, the streamers touch each other – briefly – or sometimes become stuck together for a time until the wind changes direction and they touch others, clinging or bouncing off in another direction.

The intricacy of this dance among her characters is what sets Kate Atkinson’s writing apart. The connections are rarely obvious, and sometimes they are hazy and unclear, yet as I sat riveted by this story I remained hypnotized by the ballet being played out in front of my eyes.

This novel is set largely in Scotland, in and around Edinburgh with some Glaswegian thugs thrown in for good measure.

There is a new character, too – a young girl named Regina (“call me Reggie”) who is 16 years old, looks like she’s 11 or 12, and has the mind, capacity for love, and loyalties of a person twice her age. Reggie is the pivot point for this novel as she is linked, either directly or indirectly, to the majority of the other characters in the story.

It is Reggie who is the true heroine of this novel as she invests every ounce of her being into saving lives, finding lost things (and people), and guarding those she loves and cares about with ferocious intelligence.

Jackson Brodie’s own life takes many subtle, sudden, and surprising twists. He loses almost everything in his life and paradoxically, he regains not just himself, but a closer sense of who he really is; of all that matters most to him.

Once again, I am eager to return to the world inhabited by Jackson Brodie and his many acquaintances and his few close friends. I plan to read the 4th novel in this series early in June, and while the 5th in the series will be published late in June, I hope to read that one as soon as I can after it is published.

This is gripping, suspenseful writing with fascinating characters whose lives and philosophies may differ from each other, yet each one authentically painted in their own colours, and so real I feel I know them personally. It doesn’t get much better than this.


It's a joy to return to Kate Atkinson's rather unusual offbeat crime series featuring Jackson Brodie, full of wry wit and humour, and her trademark case studies of the lives of the main characters. It is a story in which for the characters, the title of the novel is particularly apt, given the horror, trauma and tragedies that have blighted their lives. In a rural part of Devon, 6 year old Joanna is to have her life ripped apart by horrors that no-one should ever have to experience, which result in her being the only family member to survive. Thirty years later, the person convicted of the nightmare crimes is being released from prison. 16 year old Regina 'Reggie' Chase is nanny to a GP's baby, the mother has gone missing with her baby, and Reggie seems to be the only one who is worried about this. Reggie's tenacity and determination bring in the recently married Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, and the ex-cop and PI Jackson Brodie with his family problems, with the two mired in their own tangled relationship. In a story that celebrates the everyday routines and actions, and great cultural references, it is the remarkable presence of hope, and the spirit of human resilience in the face of the horrors and traumatic challenges that life can throw at a person. that shines through. A wonderful addition to simply brilliant series. Many thanks to Random House Transworld for a copy.


When Will There Be Good News? is a thriller from the wonderful Kate Atkinson that is the third book in the Jackson Brodie series but can be read as a standalone. The novel is full of suspense, surprises and a fair splattering of coincidence. The opening scene shocked me! Kate Atkinson writes with an unrestrained scope and mixes a fascinating plot with great characters. She teases us with humour while masking the opportunity of dropping cruel murderous bombshells. The plot is a mix of multiple threads that start weaving in and out of each other and what I liked is that it happens throughout the novel rather than all coming at once. The plot is cloaked in misdirection and tentative assumptions.

Thirty years after serving a prison sentence for the murder of the Mason family, where only 6-year-old Joanne was left alive, Andrew Decker, the killer, has gone underground and Dr Joanne Hunter (nee Mason) has gone missing with her infant baby. Reggie Chase, Dr Hunter’s baby-minder and friend, finds herself in the middle of a complex web of events. Thrown into the web of murder and deceit, along with the gutsy Reggie, are Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and ex-soldier, ex-cop, current PI, Jackson Brodie. Each character is developed with great depth and capacity, but I loved the character of Reggie, she is 16 years of age, feisty, resilient and clever. A young girl that hasn’t had much luck in life, in fact, when has there ever been good news.
“Just because something bad happened to her once doesn’t mean it’s happened again,’ Louise said to Reggie. ‘No,’ Reggie said. ‘You’re wrong. Just because something bad happened to her once doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. Believe me, bad things happen to me all the time.’ ‘Me too,’ Jackson said.”
An implicit reference to the title.

The personal relationships with spouses, friends and colleagues, felt very real, with wonderful subtleties that were just masterstrokes. The love interest was engaging and tantalising – why is it that we often want what we shouldn’t have. Marriages, in particular, are put under tremendous strain throughout the book and often the thing most valued, isn’t the person sharing the home.

Kate Atkinson provides amazing detail and observations, often with a bit of humour.
“A few supermarket lorries thundered along and a speeding motorcyclist hurtled past, eager to donate an organ in time for someone’s Christmas.”
If I had one criticism it would be that sometimes the detail feels like she has veered off-track and delivered content that didn’t really mean much.

I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.


2021 review: Jackson Brodie #3: After the brutal random murder of her mother and siblings 30 years ago… the only survivor, now with her own child, medical profession and nice home, is to be told that the murderer has served his time and is going to be released. Her elfin nanny (a superb character), Chief Inspector Louise and her one-time beau, but now recently married Jackson Brodie himself, all get caught up in this situation,but all from different angles. My summary doesn't really explain just how well crafted, well characterised and nicely plotted this top drawer Scotland set crime fiction thriller is. Also there's some delicious and seismic changes in Brodie's life! Certainly a good read! 8.5 out of 12.

2009 review: Jackson Brodie #3: My first Brodie, as well as my first Atkinson read. Despite being one of many bestselling crime fiction / thriller writers, Atkinson stands out in this busy crowd, on her writing alone. A very well written mystery thriller that brings together brutal murders committed 30 years in the past, the only survivor and her borderline gangster hubby and an elfin nanny(!). I very much enjoyed this read. 7 out of 12


so, when i heard kate atkinson had a new book i thought "yayyy!!" and then when i found out it was another jackson brodie novel i said "boooo!!" i thought the first one was great, but the second was a lot weaker. there's a reason i tend not to read genre fiction like sci-fi and mystery - because i just don't want to commit to ten books about the same world. i would rather read one book that is self-contained and never visit the characters again.(and yes i know - Donald Harington is exempt from this preference because no one can write like him) that being said - i loved this book. it's true that there seem to be a lot of characters in atkinson's books who have all had one or more family members murdered in horrible ways, which seems like an unlikely coincidence, path-crossing-wise, but she really can do it all - write a convincing multi-plot mystery novel with exceptionally interesting and flawed characters, as well as a pretty incisive psychological study of these people. so - jackson brodie redeemed, which is good i suppose, since it doesn't seem like this will be the end of this character. i'm in it for the long haul now.

come to my blog!


“Twenty years ago she too would have found his moodiness attractive. Now she just wanted to punch him. But then she seemed to want to punch everyone at the moment.”

There’s a lot to be angry about in this third of Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, and there were plenty of times I wanted to punch somebody too – or worse. In this instance, she is Detective Chief Inspector Louse Monroe, and he is a man suspected of fraud who’s just opened his front door and smiled sarcastically at her warrant card. I remember Louise from a past story, and there’s no way I would be looking sideways at her warrant card!

Hers is one thread of a story with many remarkably inventive intersections. Jackson is the main character, of course, and finds himself in Edinburgh despite his intention to have a nice, peaceful life with his lovely new wife. No stress.

But fortunately for us, Atkinson’s not going to let him off that easily. He’s a sucker for a damsel in distress, and it seems most of them are.

‘You used to be a private detective. Right?’ she said.

‘Amongst other things.’

‘So you used to find people?’

‘Sometimes. I also lost people.’ <”

She’s not buying that. She is Reggie, a 16-year old schoolgirl, orphaned now with only her self-styled gangster brother, Billy, who's been beating up on her since childhood. But lately she has been very happy as mother’s help for well-to-do Dr Hunter and her baby boy, the three of them forming a tight, happy little unit.

‘How’s my treasure?’ Dr Hunter asked, nuzzling the baby’s neck (‘He’s edible, don’t you think?’) and Reggie felt something seize in her heart, a little convulsion of pain, and she wasn’t sure why exactly except that she thought it was sad (very sad indeed) that no one could remember being a baby. What Reggie wouldn’t have given to have been a baby, wrapped in Mum’s arms again. Or Dr Hunter’s arms, for that matter. Anyone’s arms really. Not Billy’s obviously.”

And the pay is pretty good, so things are looking up. Until this.

“She’d identified a dead body, had her flat vandalized, been threatened by violent idiots and it wasn’t even lunchtime. Reggie hoped the rest of the day would be more uneventful.”

Of course, Atkinson’s back stories are always intriguing to the point that once I get caught up in one, it’s a shock to find myself back in the present and then, next thing I know, I’m deep into someone else’s history. Wonderful stuff!

Her style is her own, and I love it – the surprising juxtaposition of ideas, the everyday and the exceptional, all thrown in together.

“Everything about her life was just lovely. Apart from the whole family massacred in childhood thing.”

I don’t know how she combines affection with disdain, but while I’m snickering knowingly behind my hand at some dowdy character, I’m also kind of warming to them.

“The therapist, a hippyish, well-intentioned woman called Jenny who looked as if she’d knitted herself. . . ”

She’s quite a contrast to Ms MacDonald, an unwell lady who’s helping Reggie with her school studies.

“Ms MacDonald was in her fifties but she had never been young. When she was a teacher at the school she looked as if she ironed herself every morning.”

And then there’s a woman on the train “leafing indifferently through a celebrity magazine, was a fortyish blonde, buxom as an overstuffed turkey. She was wearing siren-red lipstick and a top to match that was half a size too tight and which burned like a signal fire in front of Jackson’s eyes. Jackson was surprised she didn’t have ‘Up for It’ tattooed on her forehead.”

Jackson’s love for his daughter Marlee and his affection for wives and women in his past all mingle together. Also mingled together are his memories of the army, the police force, and his private cases. Under it all is his sorrow.

“Not his real home, his real home, the one he never named any more, was the dark and sooty chamber in his heart that contained his sister and his brother and, because it was an accommodating kind of space, the entire filthy history of the industrial revolution. It was amazing how much dark matter you could crush inside the black hole of the heart.”

This current story touches on all of them and then some. I love it, but then I’m a pushover for everything she writes, I think. This was a re-read before I read the latest, #5, so thanks to NetGalley and Random House/Transworld/Black Swan for the copy for review. Even if I’d remembered critical plot points (which I admit I hadn’t), I’d have enjoyed it just as much for her writing alone.

P.S. I should add that I think you can enjoy this on its own without having read the previous books. Atkinson answers any questions you might have. Of course, I like to read them in order, but if this is the only one you can get your hands on - do so!


This book is grim, violent, sad (dead kids, dead moms, dead dogs), and also hilarious and uplifting (passionate cops, a ferociously maternal doctor, and a heroic dog who makes it all the way through -- sorry if that's a spoiler, but I would have wanted to know.) The character of 16-year-old Reggie should be given a special literary prize for Best Plucky Orphan Since Oliver Twist. Deeply satisfying and I can't wait for the next one.


I am steadily rereading my way through the Jackson Brodie novels to prepare myself for the latest release, Big Sky. And it is so much fun! Don't forget that I am one of Kate Atkinson's biggest fans so if I rave a bit, forgive me.

When Will There Be Good News?is Kate at her very best. The story is intriguing, beginning with a mass murder with one survivor, a small six year old girl called Joanna. Fast forward to thirty years later and Joanna is the well respected Dr.Hunter, living in an expensive house in a good area with a (rather dodgy) husband, a baby and a dog.

In typical fashion the author then introduces more lovely new characters, including the fabulous Reggie, and a couple more story lines, as well as bringing in Jackson Brodie and his love interest from the previous book, Chief Inspector Louise Monroe. You need to concentrate as there is layer upon layer upon layer and coincidences abound. Eventually we discover that some of the characters have hidden depths, several people suffer very unpleasant deaths and a lot of what happens is never discovered by the police! It is all wrapped up very nicely at the end.

It is all so much more than a simple murder mystery. Kate Atkinson gives us interesting and well rounded characters who we care about. She takes us on a journey which at first seems to be going in all directions but then little by little she draws everything together to an excellent conclusion, and if you are anything like me at all you sit back and say "Now that was a GOOD book!"


Here is a book which one reads paradoxically wishing it never ended- because it is so good- yet one races to finish- being compelled to- without skipping a word.

My heart was aching for the main characters to come through and survive; for the good to prevail; for some things to go right. This was so suspenseful, more so than anything I have read lately.

Never thought Loeb's green classics, which I can see sitting pretty on a shelf, would be referenced in a suspense novel. It is a part of the pleasure of reading this book that the hard-scrabble main characters are smart and well read; their thoughts have a cultural reference and they are not stick figures. Rather they are mordantly witty, interesting and good people, in spite of the burdens they carry.

Implicitly the author, Kate Atkinson is always thinking, asking hard questions, and giving unconventional answers. Very good company indeed.

The plot is intricate and cleverly spun and its great fun to see how the strands are woven together.

This is an excellent book.


The whole time I was reading this book, I kept waiting for something to actually happen and make sense. There were so many characters and it took almost til the end of the book before they came together. Then she would have the characters make reference to so many different people and I could never remember who those people were or what role they had in the story (most of them didn't have a roll at all)
There were way too many useless words in the book. The author had every single character continuously quote old nursery rhymes, both in their head and out loud to people. It got very annoying. The only reason why I kept reading the book is because I didn't have anything else to read at the time, and I kept thinking that it had to get better.