Jackson Brodie is a most reluctant private investigator. His personal life is as perplexing to him as is his recent case. He is one of my favorite characters in literature these days, a man who’s professional life is in direct contrast to his complicated personal life.

Tracy Waterhouse is supplementing her pension from the police force by working as the head of mall security when she makes an impulsive purchase, setting into motion one helluva ride for Tracy, one that will have you rooting for this most unlikely heroine.

Jackson Brodie is trying to find the biological parents of an adopted woman raised in Australia. Her text messages to Brodie alone are the work of great invention by Atkinson, as we come to know this character we never see. Women confuse and perplex Brodie, including his new client.

How these two disparate stories overlap shows Atkinson at her best, in this fourth offering featuring Brodie. Dogs figure here: pursuers by, accompanied, neglected and adopted. Then throw in an elderly actress, slowly sinking into dementia. And the children: there are children here, too, some at risk, others waiting to be loved. There is also a tragedy from the past the needs to be unraveled, involving a police cover-up.

In the hands of a less skilled writer, these threads might have become confusing, but Atkinson keeps you turning pages long after you should have put the light out. She gets the varied voices and mental streams just right, as the past haunts all three of these people.  Even the changes in voice are revealed to be a deliberate device, affecting the plot.

It all works out in the end, with the important questions answered. This is a highly original novel from a writer at the top of her game.