Earlier this year I was delighted with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. I had never heard of Kate Atkinson before that and evidently, that was a serious mistake on my part. Speaking with a co-worker, I was informed that she has actually written a number of other books in the crime fiction genre. How was this something that I had overlooked?
I love crime fiction!
This same co-worker, responsible for my crash course introduction to the genius of Ian Rankin, made sure to educate me on Kate Atkinson and dropped a few of her books on my desk the next day.
The first one I made my way through was When Will There Be Good News?
A more apt title there probably never was. Nothing good happens in this book. If you are feeling a little blue and like the world is a sh*thole, don’t read this book.
In the first 10 pages, an entire family is murdered, cut down in broad daylight by a crazy loaner with a knife. Mom, baby, one daughter and the dog, all dead. The surviving daughter is sent to live with dad and his mistress. Then we meet Reggie whose mother drowned on vacation with her new boyfriend. Dad’s been dead for years and her brother is a criminal. She is a mother’s helper to a Dr. Hunter who is basically the best person she’s ever known.
So naturally Dr. Hunter and her baby go missing one night. Reggie ends up spending that same night with her teacher/only friend who has cancer and ends up driving her car off the road and causing a train derailment.
One of our characters, Jackson Brodie, on the train. He’s just been to steal a hair from a child that he’s convinced is his. He’s headed back to London to his new wife who is supposed to have been in DC this whole time.
So many bad things! When Dr. Hunter is missing and no one seems to take it seriously, Reggie takes the case to the police. The police officer who takes on the case, Louise, is kind of a bitch. She is married to this wonderful man and all she can think about is how suffocating it is to be married.
The story is very layered, a lot happens in a relatively short amount of time – 348 pages. The lives of the characters intersect in unexpected ways but not always in a satisfactory way. Because there are so many characters that each have their own important plotlines to carry, the end can feel a bit hurried. I still have a lot of questions.
When I was in the middle of the book and finding that a lot of bad things were happening, I was assured by my co-worker that the end was happy. I guess, in light of what transpired over the course of the novel, the end could be considered happy. But it’s not really.
I loved Life After Life. I want to love Kate Atkinson. But based on When Will There Be Good News? I’m not sure that this is where we’re headed.