In the third novel in her Jackson Brodie series, Atkinson knocks another one out of the park. The title seems apropos of Atkinson’s style; her books are so filled with tragedy and sorrow that one might have the title question run through their head about halfway through any of her novels. This book starts with a seemingly random crime; a mother, two young children and an infant are brutally stabbed to death. Then the book jumps ahead thirty years to the present day and things quickly go off the rails (no pun intended) for the characters. In Reggie Chase, a fast-talking, hyper-emotional sixteen year old, Atkinson has fashioned one of her best characters and when Reggie becomes convinced that there’s foul play afoot, neither hell nor high water will stop her in her efforts to discover the truth. She’s good for a lot of hilarious bits as well. This book pulls in Jackson, but also Louise Monroe, the single mum/detective from One Good Turn and this book is a bit different in that it isn’t about the constant crossing and recrossing of paths, as One Good Turn was, but about the separate tracks these people are on and the collision they seem to be headed toward, all converging on one thing. The book is very much about women as victims of violence. Louise finds herself obsessed with one case, Jackson with another and Reggie, unknowingly, with yet another; these are all tales of women brutalized and when the book wants to be grim or sad, it practically kicks your guts out. Atkinson’s characterizations are spot on and she manages to make the reader genuinely care about these people and feel their pains and fears. There was a moment when I was almost afraid to continue reading the book because I knew that if one particular plot ended the way I was expecting it to that I just honestly didn’t want to know it. If certain characters met certain fates at the end of this book, and with Atkinson I knew I was in the hands of a merciless writer, then I would prefer not to experience that or know it. That’s the level of care to be found here. But the book dares to end with truly transcendent hope; despite the tragedies of the past, the present and, doubtless, the future, it is within Atkinson’s purview this time around to point up the moments of beauty. Even those with an unhappy ending can remember the happy days that came before. And in this world, sometimes that’s enough. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Atkinson’s third Brodie novel boasts brilliant new characters and a gripping and compelling plot; deeply evocative and powerfully emotional, this book is yet another triumph. 4 stars.