While walking home one day, six-year-old Joanna Mason’s family is attacked and killed by a man wielding a butcher knife. Joanna escapes by fleeing into a cornfield and hiding. She’s eventually found and the killer is caught and sent to jail.Now before you get upset with me for revealing too much, let me just say that all of what I described above happens in the first twenty or so pages of Kate Atkinson’s latest novel “When Will There Be Good News?” The death of Joanna’s family is the catalyst for everything that happens for the rest of the story and the impact is felt on every single character we meet over the course of this story.
As usual, Atkinson’s novel is one that defies easy description. It’s one part a mystery, one part character study and one part suspense thriller. The story starts out on a deceptively slow note, allowing readers to get to know the various players in the events to come and slowly building to a train wreck (literally and figuratively) of a turning point that has a direct impact on each of the characters. Atkinson brings back Jackson Brodie, the private detective who featured in her previous novels “Case Histories” and “One Good Turn” as well as several other familiar faces.
As I read this story, comparions to Elizabeth George kept creeping up on me. (And that’s a good thing as George is one of my favorite authors). Atkinson has a storytelling style that highlights characters, but continues to build the story with each page. She’s subtle, working in details to the storyline naturally and rewarding readers when a payoff comes several pages later. Watching the story unfold, building up momentum until we finally see the bigger picture is fascinating. Several storylines cross over and we get to see events from several points of view.
The various elements will keep you guessing, keep you curious and keep the pages turning. I consumed this book eagerly, anxious to find out what happens next. It’s one of those where once the final page is turned, you’ll walk away satisfied but wishing there was more to savor