Fringed
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.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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Punts in Cambridge
Photo by Jan-Willem Swane used under a Creative Commons license.

Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (Little, Brown, 2004).
Jackson Brodie is a private investigator in Cambridge, a divorced father of one, a veteran and an ex-cop, and not a glamorous fellow.  The novel — a sort of a hybrid of the crime genre and a more literary endeavour — follows Brodie through the wending courses of several different engagements — a lost child, an allegedly unfaithful spouse, a missing sister.  The lure here is Atkinson’s storytelling, and particularly her ability to draw a variety of compelling characters.  
Some coincidences knit the plot together, but they are readily overlooked.

Google Book Search lets you preview it. Carrie O’Grady (The Guardian) says Atkinson is very good indeed. Katie Owen (The Telegraph) likes Atkinson’s wicked sense of humour and her delight in eccentricity.  Roberta Silman (The Boston Globe) calls it an interesting hybrid of a novel.  Timothy Peters (San Francisco Chronicle) says it transcends the limitations of the genre.  Jacqueline Carey (The New York Times) calls it exuberant and empathetic. Misha Berson (Seattle Times) says it has real gravitas. Sharon Dilworth (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) calls it a brilliant if circuitously plotted novel.  Michael Allen found it hard going.  The Complete Review says it’s very well-written and consistently entertaining.  Boris Kachka (New York) says in the end this is a clever detective novel, no less but no more. Jeff Turrentine (The Washington Post) calls it a rousing triumph if you ignore mystery conventions.  Sam calls it darkly comic and well characterised. Dest reeled from one of the most powerful stories he or she read in a while. Michelle loved the bits of humour and irony. Rosario thinks the best thing about it was the small, understated connections. MsTweet didn’t see the connections. Jessica became a hopeless fan with the fourth chapter. Luanne liked the deliciously intricate, detailed plot. Margaret calls Atkinson a master at creating separate stories, then slowly intertwining them. Natasha Tripney thinks some of the resolutions are a little too neat. Bookdwarf says you can’t put it down. Jenny hugely enjoyed it. Paul thinks it’s pretty good. Devourer of Books did eventually enjoy it. It didn’t work for showhost. Atkinson’s writing drove raych round the bend. Denise Pickles calls it a thumping good tale. Sam Smith calls it nearly perfect. Jo wants to know more about Jackson Brodie. The Litblog Co-op picked it for its 2005 Read This! — read this and subsequent posts. Helen Brown interviewed Atkinson for The Telegraph upon the release of Case Histories.  Georgie Lewis interviewed Atkinson for Powells.com following the publication of a subsequent book.  You can listen to a discussion about it on The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU.

Buy it at Amazon.com.