When will there be good news?-Kate Atkinson

How hard could it get to put the bitter part of your past behind you? Hard enough, when your shadowy past threatens to strike again.

Six year old Joanna Mason witnesses what a child her age couldn't stomach. The murder of her sister, baby brother and mother, by a complete stranger called Andrew Decker amidst the fields of rural Devon. It couldn't be said that the little girl lost her idyllic happy family, as the happiness was snatched already by her novelist dad who left them all for another woman. Not a self starter by nature, she's prompted by her mum "run Joanna, run!" and she flees before the psycho killer could take her life as well. And is later found safely sleeping behind grass.

Thirty years later, the little girl is Dr.Joannna Hunter (Jo for short) (married to Neil Hunter) and a mother of a young baby. Reggie, 16 (with looks of a child but with an ancient soul) is the mother's help. Chief Inspector Louise, knocks at their door one morning to inform (and warn) about the release of Andrew Decker and the unwelcome media attention that the doctor may be subjected to. Jo reckons it would help to "escape" for a bit.

So one morning when Reggie drops into the Hunters' house, she's sent back by Neil saying Jo has gone to help an ailing aunt for few days. To Reggie it appears that the doctor has "disappeared". Leaving behind her mobile and purse was so unlike the very organised doctor. She voices her suspicions to Louise, who only asks her to stop fantasizing. Only, the mystery surrounding Neil's business and his weird behaviour makes Louise think in the same "disappeared" angle. It turns out that the whole aunt episode is a farce. So has Joanna heard her ancestral voices prompting "run Joanna run" yet again, and fled with the baby to escape from Decker? What would explain Neil's mysterious business which invites legal intervention? Is the intuitive Reggie merely misleading the police force by making a mountain out of a molehill?

The author parallely brings in Jackson Brodie, ex soldier and ex policeman, who ventures out in search of an identity which he never claims till the end. The train he travels crashes and he is saved by Reggie resuscitating him. The cause of the accident is an old Ms MacDonald who is Reggie's tutor. As a return favour, Reggie seeks Jackson's detective knowledge to find Jo. Interestingly, Jackson was the policeman who found 6 year old Jo sleeping in the field where her kin were slaughtered. Would Jackson find Jo again?

The pace of the narration doesn't slacken even once. There are no loose ends. If there are any at all, the reader is not left with any time to ponder on those. The appetite for what happens next, grows with the turn of every page. And the author assures absolute pleasure to the reader with her dry humour and gripping narration. My only problem with the book was Jackson Brodie, the ex cop, portrayed as a person being cheated time and again in his marriages. But hey, successful professionals, at times do end up as personal disasters. On a quick recap of the story once I was done with the book, I did feel that it was the flow and eloquence of the author's prose which superseded the not so unique story.

I understand that this book, though not a sequel, does bear characters from Atkinson's other novels. Some may categorize this as mystery/crime fiction, others may tag this as a family saga. In any case, the book promises a delightful read. Isn't that enough good news ?