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    'Running seemed like a good option': gender, genre and the reluctant detective in Kate Atkinson's crime fiction

    Michelis, Angelica ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8012-1053 (2021) 'Running seemed like a good option': gender, genre and the reluctant detective in Kate Atkinson's crime fiction. Fictions: Studi sulla narratività, XX. pp. 53-69. ISSN 1721-3673

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    Abstract

    Jackson Brodie, the (anti-) hero of Kate Atkinson’s crime novels, comes across as the antithesis of the traditional detective figure. Neither a master of ratiocination like Sherlock Holmes, nor the taciturn action-man of hard-boiled fiction’s mean streets, Brodie bumbles from one tragic-comic set piece to another, confused by a world he finds difficult to inhabit. Atkinson’s detective does not just challenge and experiment with the characteristics and masculinity of the traditional detective figure, her novels also push the narrative structure and standard themes of the crime fiction genre to its limits. This paper will explore the extent to which Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series from Case Histories published in 2004 to her most recent volume Big Sky (2019) can be read as a post-modern engagement with the (male) detective and his typical traits. When child-care, marriage problems and a general sense of bewilderment have to be juggled alongside detective work, walking those mean streets becomes just that bit more complicated and unpredictable. Juxtaposing Brodie and the complex narratives in which he is embedded to more traditional and historical concepts of the detective figure, demonstrates that Atkinson’s experiments with the detective figure go hand in hand with a re-thinking of crime narratives’ spatial and temporal organisation. Furthermore, by inhabiting these new time/space configurations, the detective as a literary and cultural figure will become visible from new perspectives, in particular the ways in which it is linked to aspects of masculinity.

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