Review: 'Big Sky' a tightly wound detective thriller

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After a nine-year break, Kate Atkinson's offbeat private investigator, Jackson Brodie, returns for a fifth outing in "Big Sky," an intricate novel involving secrets, lies, infidelity and human trafficking.

Separated from his wife, Brodie has moved to a small seaside village in Yorkshire. It's the summer holidays, and Brodie's now-teenage son, Nathan, has come to stay. In his latest case, Brodie has been hired by Penny Trotter to follow her husband, Gary, whom she suspects of having an affair.

On Gary's trail one day, Brodie and Nathan witness what Brodie suspects is the abduction of a teenage girl. Despite his best efforts, he fails to get the local police interested in following up.

Penny's case is just one of the cases muddying Brodie's mind at the moment. He's also attempting to trap a suspected online groomer, and testing out the fidelity of a client's partner. Will the partner take the bait?

Out walking the cliffs, trying to clear his head and separate fact from rampant speculation, Brodie comes across a man teetering on the crumbling cliff edge. Brodie attempts to help the man and both slip over the brink. What follows is an exploration of the sinister world of human trafficking, the vulnerability and exploitation of the victims, and the inhumanity and ruthlessness of the traffickers.

Big Sky is a timely novel with a plot that moves along at a steady clip. The characters are rich and fully developed. The writing sparkles. There is drama, humor and wit. Brodie's asides to himself, his ongoing commentary, are amusing. At times, it seems there are some threads left hanging. But no, this is Kate Atkinson, after all. Rest assured, every hanging thread will duly be pulled and woven into the colorful fabric of the story. "Big Sky" is a rewarding read.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her novels have won many prizes, including the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1995 for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and the Costa Novel Award in 2013 for Life After Life.

Big Sky is available at The Bennington Bookshop, or can be purchased online here: benningtonbookshop.com/book/9780316523097

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