Disjointed. Everything about Case Histories, the first book in Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mystery series, is disjointed. The mysteries are separate from the characters, the three mysteries are separate from each other, the characters are separate from each other. I’m intrigued by the sequels because Atkinson writes well and Jackson Brodie is a likeable detective hero, but Case Histories was too disjointed for me to appreciate, both plotwise and thematically.The three mysteries, or the titular “case histories,” are not connected. They share common threads—picture perfect girls lost too soon, dysfunctional families who loved them too much—but they aren’t connected as actual crimes. And yet, the characters from each case interact frequently. Near car collisions on country roads, shared backyard gardens, stepping over the same homeless girl on the sidewalk—the characters randomly encounter each other, even though they have no shared connection aside from a tragic past and the same private investigator. But since their stories were completely distinct, it felt ridiculous to have them thrown together so often. I decided to read this after hearing it was more character driven than the average mystery, but the amount of character focus was too much. I never thought I’d complain about this with a detective novel, but in Case Histories the mysteries didn’t drive the plot enough. They weren’t used as a means to examine the characters and the characters’ stories felt almost entirely removed from the resolution of the mysteries. Even worse, there wasn’t much solving of the cases by Brodie nor by me, the reader. I like to accompany the investigator, consider what happened, and try to solve the cases myself. But here the mysteries were background fodder, so I couldn’t do that. At the end of the novel, in a bizarre kind of deus ex machina, the cases are abruptly solved. The author goes, “Yo, here are the answers to these decade long crimes you’ve been waiting for the past 300 pages.” My reaction, “Anticlimax much?” The questions raised by the novel—including how do you recover after a loss? can family life ever be fully happy?—are more profound than those found in the typical detective thriller. But the cases themselves are lacking. I will try reading the next novels, however, hoping that Atkinson finds a better balance between mystery and character. I would like her to become a part of my Big Three, joining Tana French and Gillian Flynn as some of my favorite crime novelists writing today.