This should actually get two stars only but me and Kate Atkinson go way back. I read her 'Behind the Scenes in the Museum' when I was a newbie to the grown-up literature and I loved it. I am quite afraid to go and revisit it now because after reading 'Case Histories' I am not sure if Atkinson can actually write.
This is some sort of psychological drama/crime story, so you don't expect the writing to knock you of your feet. However, quite often I read that Atkinson writes 'literary crime fiction' and that is an overstatement at best. And if it isn't an overstatement, then I really don't want to read the non-literary crime fiction.
The main character is Jackson, private detective who is trying to resolve 3 or 4 different cases at the same time.
There are constant changes of POV and we are stuck in the characters' heads and informed about their every little thought. I think there are way better ways to create a character than to drown the reader in their never ending stream of consciousness.
I will give you an example:
"The language students all seemed to be dressed in combats, in khaki and comouflage, as if there were a war going on and they were the troops (God help us if that were the case). And the bikes, why did people think bikes were a good thing? Why were cyclists so smug? Why did cyclists ride on pavements when there were perfectly good cycle lanes? And who thought it was a good idea to rent bicycles to Italian adolescent language students? If hell did exist, which Jackson was sure it did, it would be governed by a committee of fifteen-year-old Italian boys on bikes."
Well, if hell does exists, I am sure it is filled with books full of hackneyed inner rants. Also, is it me, or is something seriously grammatically wrong with the last sentence I quoted?
"Shirley was wearing blue surgical scrubs. Jackson didn't think there was anything much sexier than the sight of a woman in surgical scrubs and wondered if he was alone in thinking that or if most guys did. There should be opinion polls on these things." Opinion polls, what? Why am I reading this?
Let's just say that if I wrote anything like the paragraph above my creative writing teacher/consultant would rip me to pieces and told me to take up knitting.
Another thing that annoyed me was a very lazy presentation of the backstory of each 'case'. We are quickly presented with a bunch of stereotypical characters summarised in a couple of sentences so we are left with no doubt as to how we are supposed to feel about them.
There were too many subplots that were random and served only as breaking points for another subplots. I only managed to muster enough of enthusiasm to care about one of the 'case'.
There was as well a lot of build-up that promised you God-knows-what but the resolution fell flat on its tits.
Actually, f that, I am changing it to two stars.