When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie Series #3)

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Overview

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...
On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound...
At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a ...

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When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie Series #3)

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Overview

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...
On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound...
At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...
These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest audiobook from Kate Atkinson, the critically acclaimed author who Harlan Coben calls "an absolute must read."

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Several people's lives converge in this gripping, character-driven novel by Whitbread Book Award winner Kate Atkinson. The story threads back three decades to the lightning-strike moment when six-year-old Joanna Mason witnessed a terrifying crime. Snap forward to a crowded train where an ex-detective passenger is about to hear a life-crushing sound. Meanwhile in Edinburgh, a teenage named Reggie is settling down for her favorite television shows when something shatters her calm. Atkinson manages to knot us into all this terrifying happenstance, propelling us toward an uncertain yet sought-after future.
Stephen King
As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Kate Atkinson's narrative wizardry.
Entertainment Weekly
Time
"Uncategorizable, unputdownable, Atkinson's books are like Agatha Christie mysteries that have burst at the seams-they're taut and intricate but also messy and funny and full of life."

Janet Maslin - New York Times
"Expertly rendered...It is very much to be hoped that Kate Atkinson keeps this gratifying series going."
Connie Ogle - Miami Herald
"Good news lies on every page of this meticulously plotted and affecting thriller."
Janet Maslin
Expertly rendered...It is very much to be hoped that Kate Atkinson keeps this gratifying series going.
New York Times
Connie Ogle
Good news lies on every page of this meticulously plotted and affecting thriller.
Miami Herald
Stephen King - Entertainment Weekly
"As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Kate Atkinson's narrative wizardry."
Time Magazine
"Uncategorizable, unputdownable, Atkinson's books are like Agatha Christie mysteries that have burst at the seams-they're taut and intricate but also messy and funny and full of life."
Stephen King
"As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Kate Atkinson's narrative wizardry."
Entertainment Weekly
Time
"Uncategorizable, unputdownable, Atkinson's books are like Agatha Christie mysteries that have burst at the seams-they're taut and intricate but also messy and funny and full of life."
Carolyn See
Thank God, in these hard times, for a cheerful, ghoulish, gory book like this…This is a grand mystery, with plenty of misdeeds and overwrought coincidences, as well as quotes from Scots ballads, old nursery rhymes and the classics, so you can feel edified while being creeped out—as you wait for that happy ending we all long for, and think we deserve.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…[a] deliciously underhanded, echo-filled novel…Although When Will There Be Good News? has been expertly rendered by Ms. Atkinson, it is a reminder that she is too versatile a writer to stick with any one incarnation. It is very much to be hoped that she keeps this gratifying series going. But she has already shown herself capable of creating a varied body of work, starting with her debut novel, the Whitbread prizewinner Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Good as it is, this latest Brodie book nearly bursts at the seams. It shows off an imagination so active that When Will There Be Good News? can barely contain it.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The latest Atkinson mystery finds detective Jackson Brodie back in the English countryside, where he becomes caught up in a missing person's case that forces old memories and past mistakes to the forefront of his mind. Told from a mainly female perspective, both that of detective chief Louise Monroe and victim Joanna Mason, the story is delivered perfectly by narrator Ellen Archer. She is fully and completely aware of the undertones in most of her characters' voices, and when she captures them, she creates a stirring experience for her audience. As Brodie, Archer is slightly less effective, only because she opts for a straightforward, dry tone that is less flashy. But her portrayal of Reggie, a 16-year-old Scottish boy, is amazingly astute and shaded. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, July 28). (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In what may be the last Jackson Brody mystery-following best sellers Case Histories and One Good Turn, both also from Hachette Audio-Atkinson (www.kateatkinson.co.uk) deftly weaves together a series of tragic events spanning 30 years, all the while maintaining the skills that won her the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year Award for her debut, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Audie® Award winner Ellen Archer (For the Love of a Dog) captures each character nuance. Highly recommended. [The Little, Brown hc received a starred review, LJ8/08.-Ed.]
—Joyce Kessel

Kirkus Reviews
A third appearance for former police investigator and private detective Jackson Brodie in this psychologically astute thriller from Atkinson (One Good Turn, 2006, etc.). In the emotional opening, six-year-old Joanna witnesses the brutal killing of her mother and siblings by a knife-wielding madman in the British countryside. Thirty years later, Joanna, now a doctor in Edinburgh, has become a mother herself. Her baby's nanny is 16-year-old Reggie. To Reggie, whose own mother recently died in a freak accident, Joanna and her baby represent an ideal family (Joanna's husband, a struggling businessman, seems only a vaguely irritating irrelevance to fatherless Reggie). When prickly, self-loathing policewoman Louise Monroe comes to call on lovely, warm-hearted Joanna, watchful Reggie (think Ellen Page from Juno with a Scottish brogue) is struck by the similarities between the two well-dressed professional women. Actually Louise has come to warn Joanna that her family's murderer is being released from prison. Louise chooses not to mention her other reason for visiting, a suspicion that Joanna's husband torched one of his failing businesses for the insurance. Jackson's connection to the others is revealed gradually: Jackson and Louise were once almost lovers although they since married others; as a youth Jackson joined the search party that found Joanna hiding in a field following the murders. Rattled after visiting a child he suspects he fathered despite the mother's denials, Jackson mistakenly takes the train to Edinburgh instead of London. When the train crashes near the house where Reggie happens to be watching TV, she gives him CPR. Soon afterward, Joanna's husband tells Reggie that Joannahas gone away unexpectedly. Suspecting foul play, Reggie involves Louise and Jackson in individual searches for the missing woman and baby. While Louise and Jackson face truths about themselves and their relationships, Joanna's survival instincts are once more put to the ultimate test. Like the most riveting BBC mystery, in which understated, deadpan intelligence illuminates characters' inner lives within a convoluted plot.
Laura Miller
The novel satisfies the question in its own title. The answer is: Right here and right now.
Salon
Laura Miller - Salon
"The novel satisfies the question in its own title. The answer is: Right here and right now."
From the Publisher
"The novel satisfies the question in its own title. The answer is: Right here and right now."—Laura Miller, Salon
The Barnes & Noble Review
The truly literary thriller -- or the truly chilling, thrilling literary novel -- often sometimes seems a bit like Bigfoot: many claim to have seen it, and others claim to possess evidence of it, but on closer inspection it's much more likely to be an errant grizzly or a guy in a gorilla suit. But York-born author Kate Atkinson comes about as close to the creature as admirers of artful, incisive prose would want to get with When Will There Be Good News?, an intricately plotted and suspenseful tale of past crimes and present dangers.

Atkinson's first novel, the Whitbread-winning Behind the Scenes of the Museum, was a comic, poignant saga of a middle-class Yorkshire family; her third, Emotionally Weird, was a vibrant but self-consciously tricky exploration of the mother-daughter bond. And then, in an authorial migration undertaken by numerous contemporary literary authors -- including, more recently, the Man Booker winner John Banville -- Atkinson crossed the channel to crime.

While Banville took on the nom de plume Benjamin Black and generally checked his philosophical musings at the door, Atkinson carried her name and preoccupations with her into her detective novels. She is fascinated by fate, loss, family, and how we're shaped by forces (often malevolent) beyond our control. Like many of Graham Greene's self-styled "entertainments," Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels (the others are Case Histories and One Good Turn) offer fine suspense and even finer insights into human psychology.

Like a more conventional mystery, though, When Will There Be Good News? opens with bloodshed, as most of the Mason family -- mother Gabrielle, eight-year-old Jessica, and infant Joseph -- are stabbed to death on a country lane by a psychopathic stranger named Andrew Decker. Six-year-old Joanna is later discovered hiding in a wheat field, unharmed.

Atkinson then jumps 30 years to present-day York, where we meet up with Jackson -- ex-soldier, ex-police inspector, and ex-private investigator, now a rich man thanks to a former client's will but toiling as a security consultant because "a man couldn't lie idle" -- lurking about a village green, watching a child he believes to be his. After smoothly securing a DNA sample in the form of a hair from the boy's head, Jackson departs, only to lose himself in the Yorkshire countryside and wind up on a train not to London, his intended destination, but to Edinburgh.

Which is where Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, Brodie's almost-lover in One Good Turn, is busy telling Joanna, now a successful doctor with a Glaswegian husband and a beloved baby boy, about Andrew Decker's impending release and the probable media frenzy to follow it. Louise, who's recently married but already wondering if matrimonial bliss actually suits her, finds Joanna fascinating. She's "the woman I never became," Louise notes with typical self-criticism, "the good survivor, the good wife, the good mother."

Joanna also functions as surrogate family for 16-year-old orphan Reggie Chase, the baby's nanny. And it's plucky, winning Reggie, a heroine of Dickensian charm, who weaves the threads of this novel together, with no small help from the guiding hand of chance. "Coincidence," Nabokov once wrote, "is a pimp and a cardsharper in ordinary fiction." It cheats, in other words: it wants something for nothing. But Atkinson, whose detective novels gleefully traffic in small-world acts of fate and fluke, does not write ordinary fiction, and thus the reader is quite content to believe that Louise would learn of Joanna's sudden disappearance when she returns to the Hunter household to question Joanna's husband about a suspicious fire in an arcade he owned. Or that Reggie, eating violet creams and watching Coronation Street at her tutor's house near the railroad tracks, would be one of the first people on the scene at a horrifying train wreck caused by the very same tutor -- or that, amid the carnage, she would come upon, and save the life of, the gravely injured Jackson Brodie.

What makes these chance intersections more piquant than implausible is the reader's sense that despite such connections between characters, loneliness is the true tie that binds them. Each is haunted by the dead, be they family or the innocent victims of crime. Each is alone, even inside a marriage or a borrowed family. "You belong to me," Reggie informs Jackson after he wakes from his coma. While such insistence hardly nets the girl a father figure, it does persuade him to help Reggie in her search for Joanna.

Reggie also enlists Louise's aid, though the detective is skeptical that Joanna needs it; after all, she'd mentioned she might like to get away for a few days. And thus it is that Jackson and Louise -- "two people who had missed each other, sailed right past in the night and into different harbors" -- are reunited on a quest. The novel, which began somewhat leisurely, picks up speed, though it never sacrifices backstory and astute rumination for a whodunit plot. Additional storylines about Reggie's no-good brother and Jackson's beautiful younger wife ("What does this paragon amongst women see in you exactly?" his ex-girlfriend wonders. "Apart from the money, of course") add tension, not to mention a sense that various complications will remain in place long after the mystery of Joanna's whereabouts has been solved.

Atkinson weaves literary references throughout, from playful riffs on Mrs. Dalloway to quick salutes to Descartes, Poe, and Austen, among others. Louise and Jackson share a penchant for quoting -- psalms, lyrics, poems -- while Reggie's thoughts often take an etymological slant ("Carnage from the Latin caro, carnis, meaning 'flesh.' ") Such attention to the bookish feels natural rather than forced, as the characters employ their mnemonic gifts to reassure them in moments of difficulty.

"She is dead; and all which die, to their first elements resolve," thinks Reggie, summoning Donne upon the death of her tutor. But real resolution is hard to come by, even if doctors may be found and criminals get their due. We are all orphans eventually, Atkinson reminds us, and how each of us can come to terms with that fact is one of life's most enduring mysteries. --Emily Chenoweth

Emily Chenoweth is the former fiction editor of Publishers Weekly. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bookforum, and People, among other publications. Her first novel will be published by Random House in early 2009.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316012836
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/11/2010
  • Series: Jackson Brodie Series , #3
  • Pages: 388
  • Sales rank: 101,546
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.54 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread Book of the Year for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum and has been an internationally bestselling author ever since. Her most recent novels, Case Histories and One Good Turn, both also featured the former private detective Jackson Brodie.

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Read an Excerpt

I

In the Past

Harvest

The heat rising up from the tarmac seemed to get trapped between the thick hedges that towered above their heads like ­battlements.

‘Oppressive,’ their mother said. They felt trapped too. ‘Like the maze at Hampton Court,’ their mother said. ‘Remember?’

‘Yes,’ Jessica said.

‘No,’ Joanna said.

‘You were just a baby,’ their mother said to Joanna. ‘Like Joseph is now.’ Jessica was eight, Joanna was six.

The little road (they always called it ‘the lane’) snaked one way and then another, so that you couldn’t see anything ahead of you. They had to keep the dog on the lead and stay close to the hedges in case a car ‘came out of nowhere’. Jessica was the eldest so she was the one who always got to hold the dog’s lead. She spent a lot of her time training the dog, ‘Heel!’ and ‘Sit!’ and ‘Come!’ Their mother said she wished Jessica was as obedient as the dog. Jessica was always the one who was in charge. Their mother said to Joanna, ‘It’s all right to have a mind of your own, you know. You should stick up for yourself, think for yourself,’ but Joanna didn’t want to think for herself.

The bus dropped them on the big road and then carried on to somewhere else. It was ‘a palaver’ getting them all off the bus. Their mother held Joseph under one arm like a parcel and with her other hand she struggled to open out his newfangled buggy. Jessica and Joanna shared the job of lifting the shopping off the bus. The dog saw to himself. ‘No one ever helps,’ their mother said. ‘Have you noticed that?’ They had.

‘Your father’s country fucking idyll,’ their mother said as the bus drove away in a blue haze of fumes and heat. ‘Don’t you swear,’ she added automatically, ‘I’m the only person allowed to swear.’

They didn’t have a car any more. Their father (‘the bastard’) had driven away in it. Their father wrote books, ‘novels’. He had taken one down from a shelf and shown it to Joanna, pointed out his photo­graph on the back cover and said, ‘That’s me,’ but she wasn’t allowed to read it, even though she was already a good reader. (‘Not yet, one day. I write for grown-ups, I’m afraid,’ he laughed. ‘There’s stuff in there, well . . .’)

Their father was called Howard Mason and their mother’s name was Gabrielle. Sometimes people got excited and smiled at their father and said, ‘Are you the Howard Mason?’ (Or sometimes, not smiling, ‘that Howard Mason’ which was different although Joanna wasn’t sure how.)

Their mother said that their father had uprooted them and planted them ‘in the middle of nowhere’. ‘Or Devon, as it’s commonly known,’ their father said. He said he needed ‘space to write’ and it would be good for all of them to be ‘in touch with nature’. ‘No ­television!’ he said as if that was something they would enjoy.

Joanna still missed her school and her friends and Wonder Woman and a house on a street that you could walk along to a shop where you could buy the Beano and a liquorice stick and choose from three different kinds of apples instead of having to walk along a lane and a road and take two buses and then do the same thing all over again in reverse.

The first thing their father did when they moved to Devon was to buy six red hens and a hive full of bees. He spent all autumn digging over the garden at the front of the house so it would be ‘ready for spring’. When it rained the garden turned to mud and the mud was trailed everywhere in the house, they even found it on their bed sheets. When winter came a fox ate the hens without them ever ­having laid an egg and the bees all froze to death which was unheard of, according to their father, who said he was going to put all those things in the book (‘the novel’) he was writing. ‘So that’s all right then,’ their mother said.

Their father wrote at the kitchen table because it was the only room in the house that was even the slightest bit warm, thanks to the huge temperamental Aga that their mother said was ‘going to be the death of her’. ‘I should be so lucky,’ their father muttered. (His book wasn’t going well.) They were all under his feet, even their mother.

‘You smell of soot,’ their father said to their mother. ‘And cabbage and milk.’

‘And you smell of failure,’ their mother said.

Their mother used to smell of all kinds of interesting things, paint and turpentine and tobacco and the Je Reviens perfume that their father had been buying for her since she was seventeen years old and ‘a Catholic schoolgirl’, and which meant ‘I will return’ and was a message to her. Their mother was ‘a beauty’ according to their father but their mother said she was ‘a painter’, although she hadn’t painted anything since they moved to Devon. ‘No room for two creative ­talents in a marriage,’ she said in that way she had, raising her eyebrows while inhaling smoke from the little brown cigarillos she smoked. She pronounced it thigariyo like a foreigner. When she was a child she had lived in faraway places that she would take them to one day. She was warm-blooded, she said, not like their father who was a reptile. Their mother was clever and funny and surprising and ­nothing like their friends’ mothers. ‘Exotic’, their father said.

The argument about who smelled of what wasn’t over apparently because their mother picked up a blue-and-white-striped jug from the dresser and threw it at their father, who was sitting at the table staring at his typewriter as if the words would write themselves if he was patient enough. The jug hit him on the side of the head and he roared with shock and pain. With a speed that Joanna could only admire, Jessica plucked Joseph out of his high-chair and said, ‘Come on,’ to Joanna and they went upstairs where they tickled Joseph on the double bed that Joanna and Jessica shared. There was no heating in the bedroom and the bed was piled high with eiderdowns and old coats that belonged to their mother. Eventually all three of them fell asleep, nestled in the mingled scents of damp and mothballs and Je Reviens.

When Joanna woke up she found Jessica propped up on pillows, wearing gloves and a pair of earmuffs and one of the coats from the bed, drowning her like a tent. She was reading a book by torchlight.

‘Electricity’s off,’ she said, without taking her eyes off the book. On the other side of the wall they could hear the horrible animal noises that meant their parents were friends again. Jessica silently offered Joanna the earmuffs so that she didn’t have to listen.

When the spring finally came, instead of planting a vegetable ­garden, their father went back to London and lived with ‘his other woman’ — which was a big surprise to Joanna and Jessica, although not apparently to their mother. Their father’s other woman was called Martina — the poet — their mother spat out the word as if it was a curse. Their mother called the other woman (the poet) names that were so bad that when they dared to whisper them (bitch-cunt-whore-poet) to each other beneath the bedclothes they were like poison in the air.

Although now there was only one person in the marriage, their mother still didn’t paint.

They made their way along the lane in single file, ‘Indian file’, their mother said. The plastic shopping bags hung from the handles of the buggy and if their mother let go it tipped backwards on to the ground.

‘We must look like refugees,’ she said. ‘Yet we are not downhearted,’ she added cheerfully. They were going to move back into town at the end of the summer, ‘in time for school’.

‘Thank God,’ Jessica said, in just the same way their mother said it.

Joseph was asleep in the buggy, his mouth open, a faint rattle from his chest because he couldn’t shake off a summer cold. He was so hot that their mother stripped him to his nappy and Jessica blew on the thin ribs of his little body to cool him down until their mother said, ‘Don’t wake him.’

There was the tang of manure in the air and the smell of the musty grass and the cow parsley got inside Joanna’s nose and made her sneeze.

‘Bad luck,’ her mother said, ‘you’re the one that got my allergies.’ Their mother’s dark hair and pale skin went to her ‘beautiful boy’ Joseph, her green eyes and her ‘painter’s hands’ went to Jessica. Joanna got the allergies. Bad luck. Joseph and their mother shared a birthday too although Joseph hadn’t had any birthdays yet. In another week it would be his first. ‘That’s a special birthday,’ their mother said. Joanna thought all birthdays were special.

Their mother was wearing Joanna’s favourite dress, blue with a pattern of red strawberries. Their mother said it was old and next summer she would cut it up and make something for Joanna out of it if she liked. Joanna could see the muscles on her mother’s tanned legs moving as she pushed the buggy up the hill. She was strong. Their father said she was ‘fierce’. Joanna liked that word. Jessica was fierce too. Joseph was nothing yet. He was just a baby, fat and happy. He liked oatmeal and mashed banana, and the mobile of little paper birds their mother had made for him that hung above his cot. He liked being tickled by his sisters. He liked his sisters.

Joanna could feel sweat running down her back. Her worn cotton dress was sticking to her skin. The dress was a hand-me-down from Jessica. ‘Poor but honest,’ their mother laughed. Her big mouth turned down when she laughed so that she never seemed happy even when she was. Everything Joanna had was handed down from Jessica. It was as if without Jessica there would be no Joanna. Joanna filled the spaces Jessica left behind as she moved on.

Invisible on the other side of the hedge, a cow made a bellowing noise that made her jump. ‘It’s just a cow,’ her mother said.

‘Red Devons,’ Jessica said, even though she couldn’t see them. How did she know? She knew the names of everything, seen and unseen. Joanna wondered if she would ever know all the things that Jessica knew.

After you had walked along the lane for a while you came to a wooden gate with a stile. They couldn’t get the buggy through the stile so they had to open the gate. Jessica let the dog off the lead and he scrambled up and over the gate in the way that Jessica had taught him. The sign on the gate said ‘Please Close The Gate Behind You’. Jessica always ran ahead and undid the clasp and then they both pushed at the gate and swung on it as it opened. Their mother had to heave and shove at the buggy because all the winter mud had dried into deep awkward ruts that the wheels got stuck in. They swung on the gate to close it as well. Jessica checked the clasp. Sometimes they hung upside down on the gate and their hair reached the ground like brooms sweeping the dust and their mother said, ‘Don’t do that.’

The track bordered a field. ‘Wheat,’ Jessica said. The wheat was very high although not as high as the hedges in the lane. ‘They’ll be harvesting soon,’ their mother said. ‘Cutting it down,’ she added, for Joanna’s benefit. ‘Then we’ll sneeze and wheeze, the pair of us.’ Joanna was already wheezing, she could hear the breath whistling in her chest.

The dog ran into the field and disappeared. A moment later he sprang out of the wheat again. Last week Joanna had followed the dog into the field and got lost and no one could find her for a long time. She could hear them calling her, moving further and further away. Nobody heard her when she called back. The dog found her.

They stopped halfway along and sat down on the grass at the side of the track, under the shady trees. Their mother took the plastic ­carrier bags off the buggy handles and from one of the bags brought out some little cartons of orange juice and a box of chocolate finger biscuits. The orange juice was warm and the chocolate biscuits had melted together. They gave some of the biscuits to the dog. Their mother laughed with her down-turned mouth and said, ‘God, what a mess,’ and looked in the baby-bag and found wipes for their ­chocolate-covered hands and mouths. When they lived in London they used to have proper picnics, loading up the boot of the car with a big wicker basket that had belonged to their mother’s mother who was rich but dead (which was just as well apparently because it meant she didn’t have to see her only daughter married to a selfish, ­fornicating waster). If their grandmother was rich why didn’t they have any money? ‘I eloped,’ their mother said. ‘I ran away to marry your father. It was very romantic. At the time. We had nothing.’

‘You had the picnic basket,’ Jessica said and their mother laughed and said, ‘You can be very funny, you know,’ and Jessica said, ‘I do know.’

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Foreword

1. “Love wasn’t sweet and light, it was visceral and overpowering. Love wasn’t patient, love wasn’t kind. Love was ferocious, love knew how to play dirty.” This thought runs through Jackson’s mind as he fingers the lock of Nathan’s hair in his pocket. How is this take on love exhibited in the novel?

2. One reviewer has said that Reggie is perhaps the novel’s “most moral character.” Do you agree, or not? What does it mean to be moral in the midst of such extreme or horrific events? Is there a character you would consider to be immoral?

3. When Jackson is staring at the sky and bleeding to death in the ditch, he thinks, “There were days that really surprised you with the way they turned out.” Talk about Kate Atkinson’s use of unexpected humour and understatement at dramatic points in the novel. Do you find that this technique heightens or diminishes your emotional engagement?

4. How does Jackson evolve over the course of this book? At the end, what do you imagine his immediate future involves? And will Louise, or any other character here, be a part of that?

5. While reading, did you ever ask yourself: “When will there be good news?” Do you get the sense that any of the main characters would have? Or are some of them just the type to just get on with living, and not dwell on notions of good or bad? What is the good news here, in the end?

6. Discuss how Atkinson balances outrageous humour and day-to-day life experiences with the darkness and sadness that is so prevalent in this novel.

7. Nursery rhymes, hymns and traditional poems appear throughoutthe novel — in Jackson’s memories of learning by rote or of his childhood, in scenes where Joanna and Reggie entertain the baby (e.g., the last page). What function do you think these rhymes serve, for the characters and for you as a reader?

8. When we first enter Joanna Hunter’s perspective since her disappearance, in “Abide With Me,” we’re still unsure of where she is and why she’s missing. But we do learn that she’s considered killing the baby and then herself. Did you ever believe she would do that?

9. Joanna Hunter can never escape the murder of her mother and siblings, Reggie continues to mourn the death of her mother, and Jackson considers his true home to be “the dark and sooty chamber in his heart that contained his sister and his brother.” In what ways has loss made each of them stronger? Or weaker?

10. Who is your favourite character in this novel, and why? Was there anyone that you just couldn’t connect with?

11. We only learn of Andrew Decker’s path through third-person accounts of his interactions with others. What do you think really happened to him? Do you believe that he broke into Jackson’s house to commit suicide?

12. Many of the chapter titles echo or are taken from other stories, hymns, poems, and novels. For instance, “Satis House” is another name for Miss Havisham’s home in Great Expectations (which Reggie is reading when the thugs accost her at the bus stop), and “Nada Y Pues Nada” is taken from Hemingway’s story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (which is also a chapter title later in the book). What does this literary layering add to the novel?

13. As Jackson tells us, “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.” In what way does this statement apply to the form of When Will There Be Good News?

14. In a video interview on her website, Kate Atkinson speaks of how she doesn’t usually have a strong idea of where her stories are going when she starts writing: “If they were plotted, they would be more straightforward, like a road map. But of course they’re not, they twist about each other a lot.” Talk about the way Atkinson leaps between storylines and characters, and the effect this has on you as a reader.

15. A few times, we’re told: “First things were good, last things not so much so.” How might you interpret this statement in terms of the events in the novel? Consider the theme of “innocence” as well.

16. Reggie’s mum used to always say “Back soon,” or “Je reviens” — until she didn’t return, of course. And when Reggie leaves Jackson at the hospital, we’re told “Reggie was never going to be a person who didn’t come back.” Discuss the importance of “coming back” in the novel — not only to Reggie, but for Jackson (where’s Tessa?), Joanna, and even David Needler and Andrew Decker.

17. Louise and Patrick, Joanna and Neil, Jackson and Tessa, even Reggie’s mother and Gary… not one of these couples seems to be worth keeping together. And while Jackson is something of a serial spouse, Louise sees herself as completely unsuited to the role. Discuss Atkinson’s portrayal of marriage here, and what it means for the various characters.

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Reading Group Guide

1. “Love wasn’t sweet and light, it was visceral and overpowering. Love wasn’t patient, love wasn’t kind. Love was ferocious, love knew how to play dirty.” This thought runs through Jackson’s mind as he fingers the lock of Nathan’s hair in his pocket. How is this take on love exhibited in the novel?

2. One reviewer has said that Reggie is perhaps the novel’s “most moral character.” Do you agree, or not? What does it mean to be moral in the midst of such extreme or horrific events? Is there a character you would consider to be immoral?

3. When Jackson is staring at the sky and bleeding to death in the ditch, he thinks, “There were days that really surprised you with the way they turned out.” Talk about Kate Atkinson’s use of unexpected humour and understatement at dramatic points in the novel. Do you find that this technique heightens or diminishes your emotional engagement?

4. How does Jackson evolve over the course of this book? At the end, what do you imagine his immediate future involves? And will Louise, or any other character here, be a part of that?

5. While reading, did you ever ask yourself: “When will there be good news?” Do you get the sense that any of the main characters would have? Or are some of them just the type to just get on with living, and not dwell on notions of good or bad? What is the good news here, in the end?

6. Discuss how Atkinson balances outrageous humour and day-to-day life experiences with the darkness and sadness that is so prevalent in this novel.

7. Nursery rhymes, hymns and traditional poems appear throughout the novel — in Jackson’s memories of learning by rote or of his childhood, in scenes where Joanna and Reggie entertain the baby (e.g., the last page). What function do you think these rhymes serve, for the characters and for you as a reader?

8. When we first enter Joanna Hunter’s perspective since her disappearance, in “Abide With Me,” we’re still unsure of where she is and why she’s missing. But we do learn that she’s considered killing the baby and then herself. Did you ever believe she would do that?

9. Joanna Hunter can never escape the murder of her mother and siblings, Reggie continues to mourn the death of her mother, and Jackson considers his true home to be “the dark and sooty chamber in his heart that contained his sister and his brother.” In what ways has loss made each of them stronger? Or weaker?

10. Who is your favourite character in this novel, and why? Was there anyone that you just couldn’t connect with?

11. We only learn of Andrew Decker’s path through third-person accounts of his interactions with others. What do you think really happened to him? Do you believe that he broke into Jackson’s house to commit suicide?

12. Many of the chapter titles echo or are taken from other stories, hymns, poems, and novels. For instance, “Satis House” is another name for Miss Havisham’s home in Great Expectations (which Reggie is reading when the thugs accost her at the bus stop), and “Nada Y Pues Nada” is taken from Hemingway’s story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (which is also a chapter title later in the book). What does this literary layering add to the novel?

13. As Jackson tells us, “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.” In what way does this statement apply to the form of When Will There Be Good News?

14. In a video interview on her website, Kate Atkinson speaks of how she doesn’t usually have a strong idea of where her stories are going when she starts writing: “If they were plotted, they would be more straightforward, like a road map. But of course they’re not, they twist about each other a lot.” Talk about the way Atkinson leaps between storylines and characters, and the effect this has on you as a reader.

15. A few times, we’re told: “First things were good, last things not so much so.” How might you interpret this statement in terms of the events in the novel? Consider the theme of “innocence” as well.

16. Reggie’s mum used to always say “Back soon,” or “Je reviens” — until she didn’t return, of course. And when Reggie leaves Jackson at the hospital, we’re told “Reggie was never going to be a person who didn’t come back.” Discuss the importance of “coming back” in the novel — not only to Reggie, but for Jackson (where’s Tessa?), Joanna, and even David Needler and Andrew Decker.

17. Louise and Patrick, Joanna and Neil, Jackson and Tessa, even Reggie’s mother and Gary… not one of these couples seems to be worth keeping together. And while Jackson is something of a serial spouse, Louise sees herself as completely unsuited to the role. Discuss Atkinson’s portrayal of marriage here, and what it means for the various characters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 186 )
Rating Distribution

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4 Star

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(34)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 187 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2008

    Great Literary Thriller

    Joanna Hunter, witness to a horrendous crime when she was six, is living a quiet, well-ordered life, until a killer is released from jail. 'When Will There Be Good News' revolves around this central story, but if you think this is an ordinary crime novel, think again! This is the third book in the Jackson Brodie series and when Jackson is around things never go as expected. He is an ex-cop turned private investigator who never really means to do the right thing, but can't seem to stop himself. And doing the right thing, for Jackson, somehow always lands him in hot water. I was pleased to see that Louise, a detective with a heart of gold and emotions of steel, is back. She always gives Jackson a run for his money! I was absolutely charmed by Reggie, mother's helper to Joanna, Sadie, Joanna's loyal (and huge) dog, and by Joanna herself. I can't wait to see if any of them are back in the next book! I listened to the audio version of 'When Will There Be Good News' and Ellen Archer's (2007 Audie Award winner) lovely accent and beautiful characterizations add even more depth to this already fantastic book. A fast paced, intelligent, complex plot, deliciously flawed characters, and truly evil villains make this book a must read!

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Don't miss this book!

    The blurb of When Will There Be Good News? piqued my interest, but the first few pages had me hooked.

    The novel opens to a scene of violence and loss and gives us six-year-old Joanna Mason's third person account of the day that she lost her family. Somehow, despite the details of the day and Joanna's youth, we get a sense of the woman that she becomes. Admirable, strong, courageous, and simpatico.

    The other women characters are similarly compelling and parts of the story is told in the third person but from their points of view. There's Reggie who seems to be stalked by death. Brilliant, she did well academically at the horrible posh school where she'd been awarded a scholarship. But socially, the school was a disaster for Reggie. When freed from her mother's watchful eye, Reggie trades school for two jobs and private tutoring of sorts. Reggie's favorite place is at Dr. Hunter's home, with the baby, Dr. Hunter and the dog. Clean, full of light, warm and welcoming, it is where Reggie feels most useful and at home.

    The organized, well-read, caring, and efficient Dr. Hunter seems a strange match with her dodgy husband in the "entertainment business". But while Reggie and Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe may shake their heads, love is a strange business. When you're among those that Dr. Hunter loves, you bask in the warmth of her affection. She'll phone to speak to baby and to the dog. Accomplished but not vain, Dr. Hunter is an "all rounder" - an athlete, musician, gifted doctor, cherished mother, wife, and friend. Her judgement in all things, excepting her husband, seems unimpeachable.

    Through the character and point of view of Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, the book moves towards the tradition of the British detective novels. Centered on work to the detriment of her marriage and social life, DCI Monroe reminds us that When Will There Be Good News? is a detective thriller and mystery. As DCI Monroe and Reggie work to piece together the mystery of Dr. Hunter's disappearance, the tension rises and leads us to a satisfying end.

    I thoroughly enjoyed When Will There Be Good News? I laughed, cried, couldn't put it down. If you like detective novels, give it a try. This book is great for a long trip, a cold afternoon or whenever you're looking for a fully satisfying read! Plus, it comes out in paperback on Jan. 10. I'm so glad to have discovered Kate Atkinson.

    Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (January 11, 2010), 416 pages.
    ISBN-10: 0316012831
    Review copy provided by the publish

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    Good Mystery

    This is my first Kate Atkinson book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked her writing style and her ability to make you care about the characters (at least the main ones). I do agree with some of the other reviewers in that there were too many extraneous characters. This book is best read in a short period of time. If you put it down for a day or two you can kind of lose track of who is who.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    Childhood Mystery Returns

    Read the first twelve pages of When Will There Be Good News? By Kate Atkinson, and I predict that you will continue reading to the last page. The story begins with a tale of childhood and an explosion of violence, and continues years later, as the present intersects with the past.<BR/>Sixteen year old Reggie steals the show with her charm, wit and courage ; Jackson Brodie, Detective Inspector Louise Monroe, and Dr. Joanna Hunter have key roles to play, and charm of their own.<BR/>Several stories interweave and the reader needs to pay attention. David Needler is a violent husband, Neil Hunter a cypher of a husband, and Andrew Decker a madman, all with key roles to play.<BR/>Sadie the dog plays her part, as does Reggie¿s criminal brother Billie, and her eccentric tutor and friend Ms. MacDonald. All in all, a satisfying and well written novel.<BR/>The charismatic Jackson Brodie starred in two earlier novels, and now I am drawn to read her other books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    really good. I throughly enjoyed this book and finished it with

    really good. I throughly enjoyed this book and finished it within 2 days. would recommend

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Disappointing

    I am a fan of Kate Atkinson and her writing style but this book didn't work for me. Unlike her other books, the characters in this one didn't grab me. I didn't find Joanna Mason's adult character believable, particularly when compared to the child she was at the start of the story. I found Reggie's character a little bland and it took forever to lead to why she even mattered so much.

    Overall, there were too many characters doing different things that we were only given snippets of. There were a lot of words but not much going on. When things did happen, it was all sadness. I skimmed over some parts and wondered where the detail was for others. For me, the entire mood of the story was melancholy disarray.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    slow going

    I was very disappointed in this book. The title intrigued me and I was really looking forward to a good read. The storyline really dragged along and though I tried to stay with it for over 150 pages, i just could not finish. I hate to move a book into the archives that I have not finished, but other books on my list were 'calling me' to get to them. I gave up on this book and regret buying it. Don't waste you time or money.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Acceptable but not outstanding.

    The story line is a tad convoluted and slow...but readable. The 16 year old nanny...Reggie...often brought "Pippa" of Robert Brownings' "Pippa Passes" to mind...but that didn't improve my critique. The book filled some reading time before my next stack of literary accomplishments arrived. I wouldn't read it again but that's a very personal opinion. To me...it was a humdrum novel.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2013

    Finish

    Love the book!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2011

    Couldn't get past page 50

    I started this book months ago and read the first few chapters but am not interested at all. It is hard to follow. Still debating whether or not I will try it again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    What a bummer!

    I had a lot of hopes for this book. I was really excited about reading it. This first chapter I was so into, but then it just dragged on and on. The author seems to have too many characters and no point to all of them. Kinda boring to read and probably wont read from this author again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    a gripping literary crime novel - bestseller

    When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
    When Will There Be Good News is a literary crime novel by Kate Atkinson. This bestseller is published by Black Swan and its ISBN is 0552772453. It is a tale concerned with fate, loss and memory. Her story's theme is irrecoverable loss of love ones and how our past is part of our present thus begging the question when will there be good news? It has a brillant opening and suspense is built up from the very beginning. 6 Year old Joanna witnesses her mother, brother and sister been slaughtered by a total stranger while out for a walk. She obeys her mother and runs into the long grasses where she escapes Decker. Even the family dog is killed. We meet Joanna again 30 years later when she is a successful doctor married with a child. She employs a 16 year old Nanny Reggie. Chief Inspector Louise Monroe informs Dr. Hunter that Decker is been released from prison he has served his time. Next, Dr. Hunter disappears and Reggie is the only one concerned about her disappearance. She dutifully informs the gaurds, her husband swears she is safe, away for a while. Louise Monroe meets up with her friend the ex-cop turned PI Jackson Brodie. There are many characters and digressions well intergrated into a gripping suspense novel. It is a complex novel but a great suspense read. Her fans and crime writers will not be disappointed. I recommend this thriller. Reviewed by Annette Dunlea author of Always and Forever and The Honey Trap.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Third in the series, finishes strong

    Atkinson's 'When Will There Be Good News?' is the third book of hers to feature Jackson Brodie. He may be clueless about woman, but he's a great PI. The first book 'Case Histories' was my favorite of the three. I remember reading a review about how much detail Atkinson gives while telling an overall mystery and its true. You learn every detail about each person Brodie comes in contact with, but its not overkill. Its a major part of what Atkinson is saying. Its hard not to get emotionally involved-whether in a good way or a bad way-with the characters. Both the ones lost and the ones trying to find them.
    The second book 'One Good Turn' was my least favorite of the three, but was overall still a great book. There was a lot going on but again the character development was fantastic.
    'When Will There Be Good News' closes in on one major story line and these new characters we meet are hard not to like. A few characters from OGT, in addition to Brodie, remain as well. The title is true in that a lot of bad stuff happens, its disheartening and somewhat unbelievable at times. However overall its a great read- even after getting used to Atkinson's style of writing and looking for connections she still manages to surprise in both OGT and WWTBGN.
    I recommend starting at the start with Case Histories and I bet you'll be inclined to read all three and anything else Atkinson sends your way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2009

    TERRIBLE!

    i couldnt even get through it and i couldnt pick a new book to do for my report. i guess i can just get a bad grade because that wouldnt be as bad as the chore of reading the rest. it was slow, confusing and very BORING! i will not read another one of her books.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    Disjointed

    I love a good mystery, but there was way too much going on in this book. Too many characters that had nothing to do with the plot. I kept waiting and wondering when it would all come together. It sort of managed that at the end, but not in any way that would make me want to recommend this book. I couldn't wait for it to be finished and have no interest in exploring more books by the same author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    One That Keeps the Reader Guessing!

    Briefly, at first I found the swithcing from one character to another confusing, but each began to grow on me. From the young homeless girl to the detective to the missing mother and child, each character wove an intriguing thriller that made the book difficult to stop for interruptions. I enjoyed this much more than the last Atkinson book, and I'm now going back to that one and rereading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Jv vcvvbbb

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2014

    Eh

    This was a good story though the author did go off on tangents, so so many. Without the sidebars aplenty, it would have been 4 stars. But that and very little dialog earned it only 3. I will not take a second chance on the author again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Good Story and Characters

    This is one of those books that 1/2 way through you suddenly go "OMG"! Love how all the characters come together to close out the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    When will there be good news?

    A good mystery story with twists and turns everywhere. Love Kate Atkinson and her Jackson Brodie mysteries.



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