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Classic book review: When Will There Be Good News?

This deeply satisfying Scottish thriller focuses on the hunt for a mother and her young baby.

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[The Monitor occasionally reprints material from its archives. This book review originally ran on Sept. 6, 2008.] First, the bad news about Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News? The accompanying press release states this is the final book in her series about detective Jackson Brodie.

Now, the good news. It’s the most satisfying novel of Atkinson’s trilogy.

As with the previous two installments, “Case Histories” (2004) and “One Good Turn” (2006), Atkinson’s latest mystery is the literary equivalent of an MC Escher drawing in its labyrinthine, yet holistic, architecture. Seemingly unrelated characters, even the most peripheral ones, are inextricably interlinked in a complex matrix.

The common denominator is that they’re each, in their own way, trying to flee the past. That may literally mean running away in the case of Joanna Hunter, an Edinburgh doctor who has disappeared with her young baby. She’s used to running. In the prelude, we discover that the fleet-footed Joanna was the only survivor of a brutal attack on her family by a crazed killer. (The downside of a book: You can’t shut your eyes during the harrowing passages.) Decades later, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe informs Hunter that the murderer has been paroled and is now missing. “I might go away,” responds Joanna. “Escape, for a bit, just until the fuss dies down.”

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