Overview of the Jackson Brodie Series

Death at the Sign of the Rook is the sixth book in the Jackson Brodie series—a series that began in 2004 with Case Histories. I’ve been reading the series since the beginning. However, I tend to forget exactly what happened in previous books so personal details (like Jackson’s relationship status) are often foggy at the beginning of a new book.

Although the books were published regularly in the beginning (every two years up until 2010), there was a 9-year gap between the fourth and fifth books and a 4-year gap between this book and the previous one so a reader can be forgiven for forgetting details! (My son was born in 2004 so it was startling to realize that I’ve been reading this series for 19 years!)

However, this doesn’t matter as you can enjoy these books without knowing anything about the previous books. However, characters from previous books do make appearances in multiple books so it does help if you can recall what happened with them in the past. However, this is true of any ongoing series, and I have the same trouble with all of them.

Note: The Jackson Brodie books were turned into a BBC TV drama called Case Histories, but I have never watched the series so I won’t comment on it.

A Bit About the Author, Kate Atkinson

The author, Kate Atkinson, is a British author who while NOT writing Jackson Brodie books was writing other books, including one of my favorites—the inventive and fascinating Life After Life. (This book was also turned into a BBC TV series.)

Side Note: The premise of Life After Life was like catnip to me. It begins with a baby being born and dying before she can take her first breath. Then the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. This happens repeatedly as Ursula Todd relives her life over and over. Since Ursula was born in 1910, she has the opportunity to make some big changes with all the knowledge she accumulates during her lives, such as whether a certain person named Adolf Hitler should be allowed to continue living. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my point is that Kate Atkinson is a gifted and inventive writer who can be forgiven for taking a little detour from the Jackson Brodie series. I’ve read all her books at this point, and I’ll continue to read whatever she decides to write.

Brief Plot Synopsis of Death at the Sign of the Rook

Death at the Sign of the Rook begins with an invitation to a murder mystery weekend to take place at “one of England’s premier stately homes” called Burton Makepeace. We dip into the murder mystery (and briefly make Jackson Brodie’s acquaintance) before we are thrust back in time to what brought Jackson to Burton Makepeace in the first place.

This journey begins when Jackson (a private investigator) is asked to look into the disappearance of a painting from the home of an elderly widow on the morning of her death. The widow’s children suspect that their mother’s in-home carer took the painting. During Jackson’s investigation, he discovers that a similar theft took place several years at Burton Makepeace. Are the two thefts related? We’ll have to find out—and so begins the intricately plotted Death at the Sign of the Rook.

My Thoughts on Death at the Sign of the Rook by Kate Atkinson

As I mentioned previously, I was already a big fan of Kate Atkinson and her Jackson Brodie books. Nonetheless, it did take me some time to adjust to her writing style—which takes you fully inside the thoughts of whichever character Atkinson is inhabiting at the moment. We move from Jackson to a local vicar whose lost his faith to an Army major whose lost his leg to a dowager who might be losing her mind to a detective constable who might be losing the battle to get involved in Jackson’s case.

It can be a bit disorienting as you first begin to make these narrative “jumps” (though they are announced with a chapter titles). However, I suggest that readers should be patient and settle in for the ride as everything eventually ties together in the end. This is one of Atkinson’s great gifts as a writer—being able to fully inhabit different characters and present their internal monologues in a believable and engaging way. This approach to character development and furthering the plot is a fun and different way to tell a story, and Atkinson is a master of it.

At one point in the book, all the major characters are heading into a snowstorm, and it was extremely fun to have them converge and diverge until we get to the big ending during the murder mystery weekend, which unfolded in a delightfully messy and madcap way.

So, although Kate Atkinson’s style of storytelling may be confusing at first, I encourage readers to stick with it!

The book itself is quite comical. I would describe it more as a cozy mystery than anything else. However, the term “cozy mystery” tends to make me think of bad writing or plotting but this book was more sophisticated than most cozies I’ve read.

If you enjoy lighter hearted mysteries with excellent character development, intricate plotting, and a sense of humor, Death at the Sign of the Rook will be very satisfying. If this is your first Jackson Brodie book, I highly suggest going back and reading the rest.

Book Info

My thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of this book. Death At the Sign of the Rook by Kate Atkinson is scheduled to be published on September 3, 2024. If you’ve not read the previous books and you’re reading this before September 3, why not start reading Case Histories now and get caught up with this series?