The lost serendipity of browsing is sometimes bemoaned by book lovers. We are wary of the transition to digital collections and catalogs that leave nothing to chance. Happily, browsing (stumbling?) seems to have neatly followed us into the surprisingly haphazard digital world. I found Kate Atkinson’s first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum through a simple subject heading search (York, England–Fiction) the summer before I went to study at the University of York. Atkinson’s award winning debut was a darkly funny gothic tale set in the medieval city. The deeply dysfunctional family suffering, acting out, and keeping awful secrets through the trying events of the 20th century fit my mood perfectly.
The last four books she’s written are Northern noir: nightmarish tales of children in peril and mysterious strong but flawed women. They are puzzled over by the violent, inept, but morally sound and dogged unaffiliated investigator Jackson Brodie. The latest volume sticks to Leeds and darkest Yorkshire, (where my own gloomy relatives originated) and has the satisfactions of a solid police procedural in a vivid and disturbing setting. And I found it by chance, googling the line from Emily Dickinson that Atkinson took as her title.
Atkinson is speaking tomorrow night at Porter Square Books in Cambridge