When last we left Jackson Brodie, the excellently quirky retired police detective in Kate Atkinson's equally excellent series, he was stranded in Edinburgh during the Scottish summer arts festival, unwittingly pulled into a murderous, greedy mystery. To say Brodie is a man with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (for him, at least—others generally benefit from his stumbling upon their misery) would be an understatement.

In When Will There Be Good News?, a melancholy Brodie has parted ways with his girlfriend Julia (although he suspects they might have a biological tie: "They had maintained a low-grade kind of communication with each other; he phoned her and she told him to sod off, but sometimes they spoke as though nothing had ever come between them. Yet still she maintained the baby wasn't his.")

Nearly killed in a massive train wreck, Brodie is rescued by Reggie Chase, a girl who hears the accident and comes to help. Reggie, it turns out, is a 16-year-old orphan who works as a nanny for Dr. Joanna Hunter. Dr. Hunter witnessed the brutal murder of nearly her entire family when she was only six years old, and just as the killer is due to be released from prison, she disappears. Reggie, who idolizes her employer, is left wondering where she went and enlists a reluctant Brodie to help her find out.

To reveal much more of the plot would require a roadmap resembling the tangled interchange of several major highways. Besides, why spoil the treat that awaits anyone who picks up this book? Atkinson, whose previous Jackson Brodie mysteries Case Histories and One Good Turn firmly established her as the master of deftly interwoven plot lines, is better than ever in When Will There Be Good News? This smart, surprising, darkly funny novel takes the reader on a wild ride that starts with the gut-wrenching first chapter and doesn't stop until the final page. How does Atkinson do it? Doesn't matter—so long as she keeps it coming. She has hinted that this book may be the last in the series, at least for a while. To which I say: long live Jackson Brodie.

Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.

 

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