Tag Archives: Big Sky

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson: Jackson, how we’ve missed you.

Cover imageBack from my hols (more of which later in the week) with one I prepared earlier. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, no matter how short, you’ll probably have gathered that Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite writers, not nearly as recognised by awards judges as she should be. Last September we were treated to Transcription and after polishing that off I settled down to wait for the next one unaware that it would be less than a year or that it would be an instalment of the Jackson Brodie series. After a hiatus of nine years, Jackson’s back and installed in a cottage in his native Yorkshire looking after his teenage son while Julia, Nathan’s mother, finishes off the latest in the TV police procedural series in which she stars. It’s not long before Jackson becomes embroiled in a case that encompasses historical sex abuse, modern day slavery and people trafficking.

Jackson is spending his summer ferrying thirteen-year-old Nathan around, impersonating a young girl online in the hope of snaring a paedophile and providing a cuckolded wife with a seemingly endless stream of evidence of her husband’s infidelity while looking after Julia’s portly, ageing Labrador of whom he’s become increasingly fond. Meanwhile, a trio of golfing buddies make fun of the fourth member of their group. Vince has never felt part of their gang, merely tolerated by Steve whose life he saved when they were schoolkids. In the midst of a divorce, Vince is on his uppers, wondering about stepping over a crumbling cliff when Jackson appears and saves him, the second death he’s prevented that summer. Through a web of coincidence and circumstance, these two will find themselves uncovering a heinous crime whose roots stretch back to the ‘70s and ‘80s. Before Jackson’s latest case draws to its satisfying conclusion, justice will have been done but its legality is quite another thing.

Atkinson neatly fills in Jackson’s backstory for readers who haven’t read the four previous Brodie novels (and have that delight to come). Handy for those of us whose memories, like Jackson’s, have become a little woolly in the nine years since Started Early, Took My Dog.

Wasn’t that called something – a logical fallacy? (Was he just making that up?) His little grey cells put their thinking caps on, but – unsurprisingly – came up with nothing

Many of the familiar Brodie tropes are here: Jackson’s still blaming himself for his failure to save his murdered sister, determined to protect as many vulnerable women and girls as he can; he’s still deeply suspicious of the middle classes; and there are dogs, many of them, the sweetest of which is Julia’s Dido.

He was becoming a walking, talking history lesson, a one-man folk museum except that nobody was interested in learning anything from him  

Atkinson has a knack of getting her readers to inhabit the minds of her characters, not least Jackson, his thoughts commented on by Julia, who has taken up residence in his head. Men don’t come off very well in Jackson’s world, their treatment of women and girls frequently exploitative and brutal, but there’s hope in the form of Vince, who finds an unexpected way to redeem himself, sixteen-year-old Harry, determined to protect his little sister and respect his stepmother, and, of course, Jackson, always on the lookout for injustice. As with the previous four Brodie novels, Big Sky is an intelligent, thoroughly satisfying piece of crime fiction that tackles social issues with a sharp wit and dry humour. Fingers crossed that the BBC have Jason Isaacs lined up for an adaptation.

Books to Look Out for in June 2019: Part One

Cover imageNo prizes for guessing which book tops June’s list of new titles if you’ve had your eye on Transworld’s tweets. Big Sky is Kate Atkinson’s first Jackson Brodie novel in nine years. For those not yet familiar with Jackson, he’s a private investigator with a military background and a career in the Cambridge Constabulary behind him. This new instalment sees him returned from Edinburgh to his native Yorkshire. His current case, an apparently straightforward one of infidelity, draws him into a sinister network and back into his past. ‘Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today’ say the publishers. Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear I’ve already devoured this one. Such a treat, particularly as it’s not even a year since Transcription was published.

Jo Baker’s The Body Lies is also a novel of suspense according to the blurb. A young writer accepts a job at a university deep in the countryside hoping to turn her back on the assault she endured in the city but finds herself involved in a vitriolic debate about violence against women. Tension is ratcheted up when a student sends her sample chapters of his novel whose main protagonist resembles herself. ‘At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times’ according to the publishers.

I’m not entirely sure about Tim Lott’s When We Were Rich but its premise is an appealing one. Six people gather on a London rooftop on Millennium Eve to watch the fireworks on the Thames. All seems rosy as the economy booms but mass immigration from Eastern Europe is causing rumbles of discontent and religious fundamentalism is making itself known. How will these six weather the challenges ahead? ‘Sad, shocking and often hilarious, it is an acutely observed novel of all our lives, set during what was for some a golden time – and for others a nightmare,Cover image from which we are yet to wake up’ say the publishers. Apparently, this new novel sees the return of characters who first appeared in White City Blue, a novel I read but about which I can remember nothing.

My reservations about Craig Cliff’s The Mannequin Makers are based largely on the idea that I don’t much enjoy historical novels but I’m beginning to question that having after reading several excellent ones last year. Cliff’s story sees a recently widowed window dresser hatch a plan to scupper a rival whose mannequins are uncannily lifelike. ‘What follows is a gothic tale of art and deception, strength and folly, love and transgression, which ranges from small-town New Zealand to the graving docks of the River Clyde in Scotland. Along the way we meet a Prussian strongman, a family of ship’s carvers with a mysterious affliction, a septuagenarian surf lifesaver and a talking figurehead named Vengeance’ apparently. I’m a little concerned about that talking figurehead but it does sound original

Claire McGlasson’s The Rapture is about The Panacea Society, a religious community made up almost entirely of single ladies who patiently awaited the return of the Lord. A devoted member of the Society, Dilys makes friends with Grace, a new recruit, but becomes wary of their leader’s zealotry. ‘As her feelings for Grace bud and bloom, the Society around her begins to crumble. Faith is supplanted by doubt as both women come to question what is true and fear what is real’ according to the publishers. The Panacea Society was based in a Victoria villa in Bedford, a town I lived in for a couple of years without the slightest knowledge of the cult’s existence. The last member died in 2012, apparently.

Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had sounds rather more down to earth. Much loved by their parents, the four Sorenson sisters have their lives turned upside down by the reappearance of a teenage boy given up for adoption years earlier. ‘Weaving between past and present, The Most Fun We Ever Had portrays the delights and difficulties of family life and the endlessly complex mixture of affection and abhorrence we feel for those closest to us’ say the publishers which suggests family secrets and a novel to escape into to me, perhaps heralding the beginning of the summer reading season.

That’s it for the first batch of June’s new titles. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Second instalment soon…