Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good News

This week I discovered a new book…and a new recipe…and they had a surprising similarity. The book was When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson and the recipe was Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Roasted Pear Puree (Bon Appetit Nov 2004). How could they be similar?

Let’s start with the recipe. There are three main ingredients and each one is handled separately first before being combined with the others. The potatoes are peeled, boiled and mashed. The turnips are peeled, boiled and pureed. The pears are peeled, baked, caramelized and blended. Only then are the 3 ingredients combined – and, by the way, it’s delicious.

The book proceeds in much the same fashion. In separate chapters we are introduced to Dr. Joanna Hunter, Jackson Brodie, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and finally to Reggie Chase, the “chef” through whose agency all of the others will come together.

At first I found it very confusing but once the connections and narrative momentum started, it was hard to put the book down. If this novel had a sub-title it would have to be: “Just because a terrible thing happened to you once didn’t mean it couldn’t happen again.” Mayhem and tragedy abound. But so do love and affection.

The novel should please readers who like a good whodunit (but be forewarned: not all of the loose ends are neatly tied up). And it will provide much pleasure and many “Aha” moments to those of a more literary bent as it is filled with quotations, lines of poetry, Latin references, famous titles, Scripture, movie allusions and nursery-rhymes – few of which are identified as such. There is something for everyone. I could only laugh when I came to the section: “There were ten in the bed…And the little one said, ‘Roll over, roll over.’” And wish my language skills were better for “Nada y Pues Nada.”

I haven’t said anything about the plot. There is enough to satisfy: murder, mistaken identity, coincidence, and unexpected twists. Although by some reports Atkinson has said that this is the last of three Jackson Brodie thrillers (after Case Histories and One Good Turn), we can always hope that she will change her mind.

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