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When Will There Be Good News?    by Kate Atkinson order for
When Will There Be Good News?
by Kate Atkinson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

A good mystery could be said to be like a recipe for your favorite cake. Start with one Jackson Brodie, an ex-police detective we first meet as he is pulling a hair out of the head of a small child in front of a preschool full of children and teachers. Add a sixteen-year-old girl (who looks thirteen) named Reggie Chase, an orphan who has found a substitute family in Dr. Jo Hunter, her baby, and her dog. Stir in Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, who tends to get far too involved with her cases and not involved enough with her extremely nice, understanding, wealthy new husband and his boring family. For flavoring, add tension, some excitement, a few unpleasant relatives and other characters, and lots of really funny lines. Mix thoroughly. The result will be a delicious, satisfying book, When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson.

Reggie, short for Regina, is the real heroine of this delightful work. She carries on with her life after her mother's death, persisting in studying for the exams that she will need to pass to get into college, in spite of the fact that there's no money for college, in fact, little enough money for her to live on while working two jobs. Her employers value her work and like her, without really being aware of how lonely her life is or of how many problems she must overcome in her attempts to finish her tests and go on with her life. As the plot thickens, Reggie is the one who figures things out, but nobody wants to listen to a child who looks younger than her age and seems to have an overactive imagination. The extremely capable and tough Detective Inspector Monroe considers Reggie little more than a pest and an impediment to her investigation.

The story takes place in Edinburgh and there are words and references that are lost on us Yankee readers. For instance, Reggie is driven by hunger to eat Tunnock's Caramel Wafers for breakfast, and Jackson takes peracetamol for his headache. The latter sounds enough like acetaminophen that we can assume that it's a British version of Tylenol, but the Caramel Wafers remain a mystery. Reggie works as a mother's help rather than mother's helper. For this reader, the language used, including the Latin phrases that Reggie throws out here and there, is one of the enjoyable features of the book.

This was my first experience with a Kate Atkinson novel, and I really liked it. Jackson Brodie, Reggie, and Louise Monroe are all interesting people with their own problems and sub-plots, who become involved with the main mystery and each other in interesting ways, and Dr. Jo Hunter's unique story is also interwoven with the others. In short, the characters, plot, and style of writing all went together as well as, um, my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Happily, since this is her seventh book, I can look forward to enjoying six more by this author.

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