On a beautiful summer day, crowds lined up outside a theater witness a sudden act of extreme road rage: a tap on a fender triggers a nearly homicidal attack. Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-private detective, new millionaire, is among the bystanders.
The event thrusts Jackson into the orbit of the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a washed-up comedian, a successful crime novelist, a mysterious Russian woman, and a female police detective. Each of them hiding a secret, each looking for love or money or redemption or escape, they all play a role in driving Jackson out of retirement and into the middle of several mysteries that intersect in one sinister scheme.
Kate Atkinson "writes such fluid, sparkling prose that an ingenious plot almost seems too much to ask, but we get it anyway," writes Laura Miller for Salon. With a keen eye for the excesses of modern life, a warm understanding of the frailties of the human heart, and a genius for plots that turn and twist, Atkinson has written a novel that delights and surprises from the first page to the last.
Having won a wide following for her first crime novel (and fifth book), Case Histories (2004), Atkinson sends Det. Jackson Brodie to Edinburgh while girlfriend Julia performs in a Fringe Festival play. When incognito thug "Paul Bradley" is rear-ended by a Honda driver who gets out and bashes Bradley unconscious with a baseball bat, the now-retired Jackson is a reluctant witness. Other bystanders include crime novelist Martin Canning, a valiant milquetoast who saves Bradley's life, and tart-tongued Gloria Hatter, who's plotting to end her 39-year marriage to a shady real estate developer. Jackson walks away from the incident, but keeps running into trouble, including a corpse, the Honda man and sexy, tight-lipped inspector Louise Monroe. Everyone's burdened by a secret infidelity, unprofessional behavior, murder adding depth and many diversions. After Martin misses a visit from the Honda man , he enlists Jackson as a bodyguard, pulling the characters into closer orbit before they collide on Gloria Hatter's lawn. Along the way, pieces of plot fall through the cracks between repeatedly shifting points of view, and the final cataclysm feels forced. But crackling one-liners, spot-on set pieces and full-blooded cameos help make this another absorbing character study from the versatile, effervescent Atkinson.