Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Lately, I realize that this blog has become very heavy on the detective stories. I can't help it... I've been on a serious kick. And I recently finished re-reading the book that was responsible for it all.
You see, about two years ago, I was the kind of person who made fun of mystery novels, and believed that to enjoy them, one must be a possessed of a deep love of tea, gardening, badminton, and brisk nature walks. Then I read Case Histories, which was cleverly disguised as a regular novel, without any of the trappings that make mystery novels as easy to identify from a distance as a Sophie Kinsella book.
Quickly, I realized I was reading a fairly disturbing mystery novel, one that digs up three long-forgotten murder cases, and through a sequence of events, places them in the hands of one Jackson Brodie. Brodie is, on the surface, a lot like your typical detective - he smokes, drinks, is unlucky in love, and gets beaten up a lot. However, unlike your typical detective, he adores Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, is kind to elderly cat-obsessed women, and is a doting, slightly overprotective father.
Yet "good" as Jackson is, his smarts and a certain toughness keep him from being a complete sap. And the way that Atkinson teases out clues from decades-old unsolved, unrelated crimes is utterly tantalizing. One missing toddler, one teenage girl knifed down in her father's office, and one murdering mama = whoa... didn't see that coming.
From that point on, I was hooked, and would go on to read Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, and Patricia Cornwell. Still haven't picked up one of those P is for Patricide books, or whatever, but I hear they're better than they look.