“Jackson knew something was dodgy about Barclay Jack, but couldn’t get the knowledge to rise up from the seabed of his memory – a dismal place that was littered with the rusting wreckage and detritus of his brain cells.”
Big Sky is the fifth book in the popular Jackson Brodie series by British author, Kate Atkinson. Running Brodie Investigations from a virtual office has allowed Jackson to rent a cottage in East Yorkshire, near enough to Julia’s filming location for him to spend time with their thirteen-year-old son, Nathan, during his school vacation. And hopefully to instill some knowledge, manners and self-discipline. But on an outing, they witness what appears to be the abduction of a young teen. A find on the beach the following morning cements Jackson’s conviction of foul play, but the local police are uninterested.
But Jackson is already occupied with the usual cases involving adulterous spouses, as well as a bit of entrapment and an interesting exercise in reverse online grooming. And then a trophy wife engages him to find out who is having her followed. Crystal Holroyd doesn’t believe it’s her husband, but isn’t about to share another possible source (her murky past) with Jackson. Soon, the turns in this case are enough to distract him from a missing teen.
Meanwhile, DC Reggie Chase and her associate, DC Ronnie Dibicki have been assigned to review a paedophile case from the eighties involving two local men. With the surviving offender due for early release, Chase and Dibicki are re-examining the files and questioning probable witnesses and associates regarding the possible participation of a third man.
Atkinson’s plot topical and interesting, featuring human trafficking, paedophiles, sex slavery and kidnapping, and has plenty of turns to keep the reader engrossed. As well as saving several lives, Jackson uses the lyrics of country songs as counselling aid, and to disarm a gunman using TV cop show dialogue, before helping a pregnant prospective bride to leave her groom at the altar.
But Atkinson’s strength is her characters and some of their inner monologues are an absolute joy, filled with dry British (and often very black) humour and understatement. Jackson’s narrative is peppered with Julia’s (previously delivered or else anticipated, but inevitably critical) comments.
There is humour, too, in certain situations and the snappy dialogue, with its tangents and asides, including several laugh-out-loud moments. Atkinson manages to include a bunch of terrible cheese jokes, pun-based names for drag queens, and some truly awful off-colour cabaret-type jokes, as well as ferociously-protective mother with martial arts skills, and Primark scarf that is instrumental in two deaths.
Once again, Atkinson carefully builds up her characters until the reader is invested in them and really cares about their fate. Of those characters, Vince initially seems a bit of a sad loser, but which way will he jump when push comes to shove? Crystal and Harry, though, are undeniable gold, and the team of Reggie and Ronnie are pure delight. Fans of the series will remember Reggie Chase from When Will There Be Good News.
Atkinson has a wonderful way with words and some of her passages are superbly evocative and vividly descriptive. While it is not essential to have read the earlier books of this series, this book does contain spoilers for earlier books, so it doesn’t hurt to read them in order. As usual, Atkinson provides a brilliant read and fans will be pleased to know that the ending leaves open the possibility of more Jackson Brodie.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Penguin Random House Australia
- Hardcover: 391 pages
- Publisher: Little Brown & Co (25 June 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316523097
- ISBN-13: 978-0316523097
- Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 3.9 x 24.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 635 g
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