Less than a year after Transcription, Kate Atkinson (A God in Ruins, Life After Life) is back with a new Jackson Brodie novel, fifth in the series after a nine-year hiatus. Fans are happy, and Big Sky can be read out of sequence, so new fans will be made. Brodie is a private detective (although he doesn't like the term: "Too Chandleresque. It raised people's expectations") now living in a seaside village on the east Yorkshire coast. His occasional roommate is his son, Nathan, with the typical adolescent ego "big enough to swallow planets whole," while his ex-partner, Julia, films a TV series nearby. Dido, Julia's aging yellow Lab, slow but game, also shares the cottage.
Brodie is doing the dull task of tracking an unfaithful husband, but from the first chapter--in which two sisters are flown from Eastern Europe to England for jobs in the hotel industry--it's obvious something worse than infidelity looms. It takes a while to get to the dark crux of the story, but the leisurely pace, as the characters are fully developed, is a pleasure. In particular, Julia is often inside Brodie's head; (" 'Have you even tried being an optimist?' Julia said. 'Once,' Jackson said. 'It didn't suit me.' ") She is neurotic about Nathan's diet, but Brodie thinks, "Another year or two and Julia would be worrying about cigarettes and alcohol and drugs. She should enjoy the sugar years."
Big Sky hosts a slew of nefarious people, like the quartet of golfing buddies with a brutal side gig, and the pedophile prisoner. There are good guys, too: a trophy wife, her stepson, a drag queen, a former colleague of Brodie and her partner. With both dread and humor, Atkinson pulls many disparate threads together in a satisfying weave. Brodie is back, with panache. --Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness