“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!