By Kate Atkinson
Published 2008 by Little, Brown, and Company
When she was six-years-old, Joanna witnessed the brutal murders of her mother, sister and baby brother. Thirty years later, the man who was convicted of the crime is being released from jail. Joanna is now married, a mother and a doctor with a 16-year-old nanny named Reggie, who has had more bad luck than good in her life. Reggie has recently been orphaned and has a brother who is a criminal menace in her life.
When Joanna goes missing, Reggie seems to be the only person who believes that something terrible has happened. Joanna's husband steadfastly maintains that Joanna has left to visit an ailing aunt, but her car is still in the garage, Reggie finds the baby's favorite blanket in the yard, and Joanna is not answering her phone.
Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe has her plate full. She is obsessed with locating David Needler, a man who murdered several of his family members, and protecting his remaining family. Louise is also investigating an arson case involving a company owned by Joanna's husband. To say she is distracted when Reggie approaches Louise with her concerns would be an understatement.
Detective Jackson Brodie is dealing with his own issues when he finds himself on the wrong train. Which really turns out to be the wrong train when it hits a car on the tracks and derails, leaving Brodie badly injured, with someone else's i.d., and with a case of amnesia. Reggie, who is staying in a nearby home, hears the accident and saves Brodie's life then won't leave him alone.
Atkinson explores a lot of themes in this book. There are a lot of marriages that she explores and none of them makes much of a case for ever getting married. Memory is also a big theme in this book and Atkinson does a fine job of exploring the different ways that people deal with memories. Despite this being Atkinson's third novel featuring Jackson Brodie, he is really not the star of this show. The female characters in this book are the strongest characters, all of whom are survivors dealing in their own ways.
The critics loved this one. I can't say that I felt the same. This is both a mystery and a book about relationships. I felt a little bit like each distracted from the other. And I felt like there was just too much going on in this book; had the Needler family been left out of the story, it would have flowed more smoothly for me. But I was also listening to this one, rather than reading it and I have wondered, since I listened to it, if that made a difference in my appreciation of this book. Atkinson does write terrific characters and the ending completely took me by surprise. Both of those are excellent things in a book. And more than enough to make me want to pick up one of the Atkinson books in Mount TBR.