I hesitate to express some disappointment with Big Sky, the fifth Jackson Brodie instalment by Kate Atkinson, but the feeling grew as I read deeper into the book. I realize this disappointment is based on my incredibly, probably infeasibly high expectations of this author.
I have loved Jackson since his first outing in Case Histories. The darkly comic tone is the same in Big Sky but I struggle to pin down what is different this time. The crime is sex trafficking. The action is told through a wide variety of viewpoints. The cast list is very long and the tying up of ends involves characters I had long ceased to remember. Some of the ends were tied up quickly in the last thirty or so pages.
There are still many things to love. The Yorkshire Coast setting – Atkinson was born in York and clearly knows the area well – is at times both realistically beautiful and sordid. And there are so many rough diamond characters to spend time with: Crystal Holroyd; her stepson Harry; the wonderfully named drag queen Bunny Hops, Harry’s co-worker at the Palace Theatre; and the inept Vince Ives. Jackson has moved to the coast and is working as a private detective on a number of small seemingly irrelevant cases; staying with him are his ex-partner’s dog Dido, and their teenage son Nathan. The story is anchored in the historic sex crimes case of Bassani and Carmody. Bassani is dead but Carmody is rumoured to be about to spill some names. Various people are being threatened. Two police detectives are investigating the cold case and how it links to the ‘magic circle’ but they have little luck in finding answers. Two Polish girls arrive in England. Four friends play golf, and one of them feels like an outsider.
Halfway through, the two sides of the story come together as Brodie is employed by Crystal Holroyd to find out who is following her in a silver BMW. After their first meeting, a warning is left for Crystal: a photo of her young daughter. ‘Keep your mouth shut, Christina’. The first hint of a former life for the expensively polished wife of Tommy Holroyd. This is a book in which the present catches up with the past, where past horrors are finally acknowledged.
I finished this book with mixed feelings. Jackson is still a character I want to spend time with, but the plot this time didn’t work for me. Also I put my hand up to say that, as an East Yorkshire girl, I was bamboozled by Atkinson’s mangling of East Coast geography [which she admits in ‘Acknowledgements’ at the end] which took me away from the page but won’t matter a jot if you’ve never been to Brid. That said, Atkinson is one of our best living writers and Jackson Brodie is not a typical fictional detective.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my reviews of these other novels by Kate Atkinson:-
Life after Life
A God in Ruins
If you like this, try:-
‘Eeny Meeny’ by MJ Arlidge
‘The Art of the Imperfect’ by Kate Evans
‘The Vanished Bride’ by Bella Ellis
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Hq via @SandraDanby