In what is so far the final book in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, Atkinson wraps up a brilliant quartet of literary thrillers that succeed on multiple levels. This one is no exception. Atkinson creates great characters, like ex-cop Tracy Waterhouse, now a troubled mall cop who finds herself in the middle of a decades old mystery because of a single impulsive decision. And then there’s Tilly Squires, an aged actress struggling with dementia and the demands of a recurring role on a cheesy TV mystery show. And then there’s Jackson’s new dog; Lord, what fun he is. I really devoured this book; I think it’s the most propulsive in terms of plot and the way it leaps between the present day and 1975 is compelling and gripping. Even in the flashbacks, Atkinson keeps the tension up. This book is just as thematically composed as Atkinson’s previous novels, but there’s something a bit different with this. Many of Atkinson’s previous books (all of her previous Brodie novels, Human Croquet & even, in an odd way, Emotionally Weird) have been about violence against women. This book is about cruelty and violence toward children. And dogs. One might say it’s really about violence against the truly helpless and the closest to innocence and the dangers, rewards, successes & failures of parenthood. For all that thematic resonance and deep, evocative character work, the book also succeeds as a great mystery thriller with plenty of plot twists I didn’t see coming. I don’t know if Atkinson intends to resurrect Brodie for more novels somewhere down the line. I kind of doubt it. She released the four books of this quartet at two year intervals and with no other novels in between. Since this one, it’s been six years and she’s published two novels unrelated to Brodie, so I figure she’s done with the character and I’m okay with that. Will I read another Brodie novel if she publishes one? Trick question: I’ll read ANYTHING Atkinson publishes. But I’m happy with the ending here and viewing these four novels as a single unit, a lengthy, four-part novel is satisfying. I mean, we come to it again. It’s an Atkinson novel; it will be a masterpiece. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Jackson Brodie series ends with a gripping thriller that spans decades and features beautiful, evocative character work and serious themes; another Atkinson triumph. 4 stars.