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In Kate Atkinson’s 2004 Case Histories, cop turned private detective Jackson Brodie is hired to crack three separate cold cases. Initially, he seems to have no connection to any of them, and they seem to have no connection to each other: a young girl vanishes from her backyard, a teenager is murdered in her father’s office, and a struggling wife slays her husband with an ax. Brodie quickly becomes embroiled in untangling the mysteries, and the book’s nonlinear, shattered structure lends itself to this balancing act, which soon proves more complex than Brodie anticipated. Atkinson’s meticulous writing is urgent and addictive, and she doesn’t shy away from making clever observations about the human condition, underlining larger themes around grief, loss, and cruelty. Case Histories serves as the first in a series of five, and has been adapted for the small screen by BBC One. —Meg Zukin

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