Photo by m4r00n3d used under a Creative Commons license.
Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (Little, Brown, 2006).
Private detective Jackson Brodie makes a return appearance (we met him first in Case Histories), this time in Edinburgh, where his girlfriend Julia is appearing in a Fringe Festival production. Brodie is witness to a routine fender-bender which turns ugly, and the chain of events it touches off are hardly mundane. As trouble ensues, Atkinson switches the point of view repeatedly between strangers whom events have thrust together, including Edinburgh police inspector Louise Monroe. The result is perhaps more literary than most mysteries, with an emphasis on character development and dialogue. A genre-bender, and my favorite of Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books.
Google Book Search gives you a preview. Janet Maslin (The New York Times) says Atkinson’s characters are all interestingly off-balance. Liesl Schillinger (The New York Times) calls Atkinson’s writing bleakly funny. Laura Miller (Salon) savored the tart, quirky character portraits. It’s the most complicated plot Becky has encountered in a long time. Justine Jordan (The Guardian) says Atkinson interweaves stories with panache. Nancy Fontaine compares it to a rich, chocolate dessert. Cate Ross was reminded of the ourobouros (careful: spoilers). Mary Whipple smiled at the plotting and twists of fate. Amanda Craig (The Independent) says Atkinson is splendid at the stuff of people’s lives. Dana Kletter (The San Francisco Chronicle) says a melancholic atmosphere pervades the novel. Claudia FitzHerbert (The Telegraph) calls it an action-packed cartoon of a book in a flimsy throwaway frame. Norah Piehl says crime-novel purists would not call it a mystery. B. Morrison found it confusing but still a good read. C. Max Magee calls it antic and madcap. Veronique De Turenne (NPR) calls it a Rubik’s Cube of a book. W.R. Greer calls it one fine novel. It knocked off Thomas Pynchon in the 2007 Tournament of Books. David Thayer says great swathes of it are fun to read, others are frustrating. Ellen liked unexpected twists and turns. Mel says Atkinson’s stories begin like shattered vases, but then they fit together. Sam Sattler says the story is bigger than the sum of its parts. Ladyslott calls it a very enjoyable and literary mystery. The Nag is one of several to liken the plot to matryoshka nesting dolls. Sam Smith calls it a book about coincidences. Jenny says it revolves around coincidences. Chris Marshall calls it a load of rubbish. Jo calls it brilliant. Shelly says it’s not a traditional mystery. Margaret likes Atkinson’s gently amusing detachment. Atkinson is asked about her portrayal of Edinburgh in this interview on NPR. Listen to Atkinson read from the book on KQED. Or listen to Atkinson discuss the book on the Bat Segundo Show.