Still in this rut where I go from Atkinson to James, from James to Atkinson. It’s not over yet: I’ve got Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog waiting for me on the bookshelf. I have other books on that shelf, too: a Donna Leon, a Sujata Massey (bargain book buys in other series I have enjoyed, then put aside: worth a couple of dollars to check out again), Still Alice (heartily endorsed by my sister), Loving Frank (received good reviews) But I have this weird craving to bounce between these two authors right now.

The Atkinson craze mostly is because of the series, of course. And although Started Early isn’t slated to be televised (at least not yet), I might as well continue my relationship with Jackson Brodie while his past exploits are still fresh in my mind. The James fixation comes, in part, from the same place: I found a couple more of the books in the series at the Westport Library Book Sale. And it’s also the compulsion to stay with a series, to keep filling in details (though with James I’ve got backward and forward in time).

But James is a relief both from Atkinson and my real life. Reading Atkinson is intense, from the depressing circumstances of her characters to her whirligig writing style. She’s not a pessimist—there’s always a lilting hopefulness to her stories—but she’s not one to spare her characters from outrageous slings and arrows. James is much more formulaic. There’s a horrific murder, sure—and then an investigation by Dalgleish and his team, at least one more murder, and finally, things are tidied up.

I find myself craving James’ combination of puzzling crime plus solid writing, as I put the finishing touches on my final paper for my master’s and deal with epic stresses at work (deliberately unspecified here).