Joanna Hunter seems to have it all: she’s a successful doctor and mother of a darling baby boy. But thirty years ago Joanna’s life was dramatically changed by tragedy: her mother, sister, and brother were all killed in a random act of violence. Joanna appears to have left those emotional scars behind, or at least covered them up really well. Reggie Chase works for Joanna as a mother’s helper. She is sixteen and forced to leave school and live on her own after her mother’s recent death. Reggie has seen some hard times, but has a keen wit and a love of learning that keep her going. She admires Joanna, and is also somewhat attached to her former teacher, Ms. MacDonald, who is tutoring Reggie for her A-levels. When Joanna disappears and her husband offers a weak explanation, Reggie is sure there’s trouble afoot. She follows up on a chance encounter with Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, and gets her involved in finding Joanna.
Meanwhile in a parallel story, Jackson Brodie is just going about his business, traveling from London to Edinburgh. A harrowing event brings him into contact with Reggie, and then with Louise, who it turns out is an old friend. The problem is, several people think Jackson is someone else, and the person they think he is may have stolen Jackson’s identity as well. And all Jackson wants to do is make it home before his wife returns from a business trip and finds him missing. But first there’s the matter of Joanna Hunter that now requires his attention, too.
There’s so much about the story that I can’t say, because every thread is so tightly wound with all the others and I don’t want to ruin it with even the tiniest spoiler. But was with Case Histories and One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson has written a compelling mystery with some major surprises, and a delightful dose of humor expressed primarily through the thoughts and actions of her well-drawn characters. I enjoyed this book from start to finish.