Case Histories
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3.82 / 5

"Case Histories" Summary

By Kate Atkinson

mystery | 389 pages | Published in NaN

The first book in Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie Mysteries series, called "The best mystery of the decade" by Stephen King, finds private investigator Jackson Brodie following three seemingly unconnected family mysteries in Cambridge. Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night. Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac's apparently random attack. Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making - with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge . . .


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A private detective investigates three seemingly unrelated cases that unravel dark secrets and hidden connections.


In "Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson, readers are taken on a gripping journey through a series of interconnected mysteries. This literary thriller combines elements of crime fiction, family drama, and psychological suspense to create a captivating and thought-provoking narrative. Atkinson's skillful storytelling and complex characters make "Case Histories" a compelling read that explores themes of loss, redemption, and the enduring power of human connections.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in Cambridge, England, and revolves around three seemingly unrelated case histories. The first case involves the disappearance of three-year-old Olivia Land, who goes missing during a family vacation in 1970. The second case centers around the unsolved murder of a young woman named Laura Wyre in 1994. The third case follows the grieving father of a teenage girl, who was killed in 1979 by an unknown assailant.

Plot Overview

Atkinson weaves these three case histories together through the central character, private investigator Jackson Brodie. Brodie is a former police officer with his own troubled past and a penchant for getting involved in complex cases. As he delves into each case, he uncovers a web of secrets, lies, and hidden connections that span decades.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Jackson BrodieA private investigator with a troubled past, determined to uncover the truth behind the case histories.
Olivia LandA three-year-old girl who disappears during a family vacation.
Laura WyreA young woman who is brutally murdered, her case remaining unsolved.
Theo WyreLaura's brother, haunted by his sister's death and seeking answers.
Sylvia LandOlivia's mother, devastated by her daughter's disappearance.

Summary of Story Points

Chapter 1-5: Olivia Land's Disappearance

The novel begins with the disappearance of three-year-old Olivia Land during a family vacation in 1970. The case remains unsolved, and Olivia's mother, Sylvia, is haunted by the loss. Jackson Brodie, a private investigator, is hired to look into the case after all these years. As he delves into the past, he uncovers surprising connections and potential suspects.

Chapter 6-10: Laura Wyre's Murder

In 1994, Laura Wyre is brutally murdered, and her case remains unsolved. Jackson Brodie is approached by Laura's brother, Theo, who is desperate for answers. Brodie begins to investigate Laura's life and uncovers a complex web of secrets involving her family and friends. As he gets closer to the truth, he finds himself in danger.

Chapter 11-15: The Unsolved Teenage Murder

In 1979, a teenage girl is killed by an unknown assailant. The case is never solved, and the girl's father, desperate for justice, contacts Jackson Brodie for help. Brodie uncovers shocking information about the girl's past and finds connections to the other case histories he has been investigating. As he digs deeper, he realizes that the truth is more complex than he could have imagined.

Main Events

  • Olivia Land disappears during a family vacation in 1970.
  • Laura Wyre is murdered in 1994, and her case remains unsolved.
  • Jackson Brodie investigates the disappearance of Olivia Land and uncovers surprising connections.
  • Brodie is approached by Theo Wyre, Laura's brother, to investigate her murder.
  • Brodie discovers a complex web of secrets surrounding Laura's life and finds himself in danger.
  • Brodie is contacted by the father of a teenage girl who was killed in 1979.
  • Brodie uncovers shocking information about the girl's past and finds connections to the other case histories.
  • As Brodie continues to investigate, he realizes the truth is more complex than he could have imagined.

Themes and Insights

"Case Histories" explores themes of loss, redemption, and the enduring power of human connections. Atkinson delves into the profound impact that unresolved mysteries and tragedies can have on individuals and families over time. The novel also examines the complex nature of truth and the ways in which people can hide their true selves.

Through her multi-layered narrative, Atkinson highlights the interconnectedness of lives and the ripple effects of past actions. She explores the profound ways in which the past shapes the present and how our choices and secrets can have far-reaching consequences. The novel also delves into the themes of forgiveness and the search for justice in an imperfect world.

Reader's Takeaway

"Case Histories" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Atkinson's skillful storytelling and complex characters make this book a compelling exploration of human nature and the enduring power of love and loss. The interconnected mysteries and unexpected twists will keep readers guessing until the very end.


"Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson is an engaging and intricately crafted literary thriller that combines elements of crime fiction, family drama, and psychological suspense. With its complex characters, interconnected mysteries, and exploration of profound themes, this novel will leave readers captivated and contemplating the enduring power of the past.

Case Histories FAQ

  1. What is the genre of the book 'Case Histories'?

    The book 'Case Histories' by Kate Atkinson is a mystery novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'Case Histories'?

    The author of 'Case Histories' is Kate Atkinson.

  3. What is the main plot of 'Case Histories'?

    The main plot of 'Case Histories' revolves around private investigator Jackson Brodie as he investigates three different cold cases that are interconnected.

  4. Are there any recurring characters in 'Case Histories'?

    Yes, private investigator Jackson Brodie is a recurring character in 'Case Histories' and appears in other books by Kate Atkinson as well.

  5. Is 'Case Histories' part of a series?

    'Case Histories' is the first book in the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson, followed by several other novels featuring the same character.

  6. Is 'Case Histories' suitable for young readers?

    The book 'Case Histories' is recommended for adult readers due to its mature themes and content.

  7. Where is 'Case Histories' set?

    'Case Histories' is primarily set in Cambridge, England.

  8. What are some themes explored in 'Case Histories'?

    Some themes explored in 'Case Histories' include loss, grief, family secrets, and the impact of past events on the present.

  9. Is 'Case Histories' a standalone novel?

    While 'Case Histories' can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, it is part of a series featuring the same protagonist.

  10. Has 'Case Histories' won any awards?

    Yes, 'Case Histories' won the British Book Awards' Best Crime Novel of the Year in 2005.