Case Histories: Review

Jackson Brodie is an ex-policeman, ex-soldier and an ex-husband. He’s currently a private investigator but it seems that most of his cases just sort of land in his lap as he seems to have some sort of magical ability to stumble across crimes while just puttering about.

Despite having read and enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s novels, I failed to watch this mini-series when it aired on TV last year, but picked it up on dvd over Christmas. I’m not sure when they were on, but they certainly feel like a 9pm Sunday evening type of show, engaging enough to distract you from thinking about work the next day, but not so heavy that it gets your brain all worked up before bedtime.

Jackson Brodie is a great character, someone who just wants a simple life, but at the same time is unable to say no to the various victims that cross his path. Jason Isaacs is excellent in the role, managing to convey everything that’s going on in the head of someone who fundamentally doesn’t say much and doesn’t want to give much away. I was a little distracted by the Yorkshire accent, not because it was bad, but just because I wasn’t expecting it to come out of his mouth, particularly when the series is set in beautiful looking Edinburgh and everyone else is very Scottish.

The supporting casts are equally good. The recurring characters in Jackson’s life, his former colleague, current secretary and most notably his young daughter all soften the grumpy Jackson. They’re all deeply frustrated by him, but care for him and he for them. Likewise the various players in each episode’s cases are bursting with character, occasionally a little too much to be honest, but they each also bring out something interesting in Brodie.

I was quite surprised that the series was made up of three pairs of episodes, each pair effectively covering a whole book. It’s been a while since I’ve read the books, but nothing really felt missing from the stories – they weren’t rushed or incomplete, each well paced for a couple of hours runtime. The only thing that did drag were the endless flashbacks to Brodie’s childhood, they must have got their money’s worth out of some of those scenes that were used over and over again!

This isn’t a flashy series like something like Sherlock, but it is a very satisfying and entertaining watch. The mysteries themselves are well thought out and keep the audience working things out right along with the characters, but are at the end of the day not that memorable (I’d forgotten who was the guilty party from the books, and now have forgotten again from the tv series). But what does stand out and stay with you is that Jackson Brodie is a really great central character, exactly the kind person that I’d want on my side if I was ever in a pickle.

Case Histories is available on dvd for about 9quid from Amazon and Kate Atkinson’s books are pretty good too.

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