Review: When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Title: When Will There Be Good News?

Author: Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Doubleday [2008]

ISBN: 978-0-385-61451-1

In one of the most shocking openings you’ll read to a book a young child witnesses a horrible crime against her family. Thirty years later that young child is Joanna Hunter: a GP a new mother and the employer of 16 year-old orphan Reggie Chase as her ‘mother’s help’. When Dr Hunter disappears unexpectedly Reggie finds it difficult to believe her husband’s explanation. DCI Louise Monroe is obsessed with a different crime against a different family but eventually she too is drawn into the mystery of Joanna Hunter’s disappearance and Jackson Brodie, former policeman and former PI, also becomes involved in the case when he finds he owes Reggie a big favour.

I am smitten by the characters in this book. They lept off the page and into my heart where I suspect some of them will take up long term residence. Reggie Chase, with her sharp wit, belief in her own standing as a harbinger of death and dogged determination in the fact of events which would bury lesser mortals, is an utter delight. Newly married Louise Monroe’s obsessive, self-deprecating monologue is equally memorable and thought-provoking. Even minor characters, such as Reggie’s criminal brother Billy or the woman hiding in a safe house in fear of her ex-husband who has already killed her own mother, sister and niece are all vividly depicted. The quick chapters told from each character’s point are view are beautifully crafted.

Atkinson’s clearly evident writing skill makes the thing that let this book down, for me, even more annoying than it might otherwise have been. It is quite literally drowning in coincidences. And while I tried to implement the advice of some reviewers to just accept them I couldn’t get past the fact that their constant presence denuded the book of any shred of suspense. By about half-way through the story, after the second or third audible groan, I knew that Atkinson was not afraid to link very unlikely events together at the drop of a hat. From that moment on there was not another single point where I wondering what might happen or pondered how the story would resolve because I knew that whatever pickles the characters might get themselves into they would be quickly removed from it via a trite and unbelievable coincidence. Which did suck the fun out of reading just a little and, perhaps more importantly, detracted from the things Atkinson was observing about people, the way the develop and change their identities and their survival in the face of horrendous adversity.

There are things I really love about this book but I do wish the plot hadn’t been quite so predictable nor quite so referential to previous works which made it a little difficult to read as a standalone novel.

My rating 3.5/5

Other stuff

Reviewed by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise

Reviewed on Euro Crime

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1 Response to Review: When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

  1. I haven’t read any of Kate Atkinsons other books, but managed to read this one without feeling I was missing out on anything, so I think it did work as a stand alone novel.

    I agree with you about the coincidences – there were just too many, and I was groaning by the end too!


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