Monday, January 19, 2009

REVIEW: One Good Turn

Title: One Good Turn
Author: Kate Atkinson
ISBN: 97803161548401/ Little, Brown & Co., 2006
Mystery, #2 in the Jackson Brodie series
Rating: A

First Line: He was lost.

Jackson Brodie, the Case Histories detective who reopened three cold cases and wound up a millionaire, follows his actress girlfriend to Edinburgh where she is performing in a play during the Fringe Festival. While his girlfriend is rehearsing, Brodie manages to get in all sorts of trouble. Paul Bradley gets rear-ended in the street, and when he gets out of his car, the other driver takes a baseball bat to him. Walter Mittyesque writer Martin Canning saves Bradley's bacon by swinging his laptop case at the man trying to hit a home run. Not only is Brodie a witness to all this, so is Gloria Hatter, wife of Graham Hatter, the crooked millionaire property developer. Brodie walks away, convinced that there are plenty of other witnesses to the road rage, but he's soon dragged back in by police detective Louise Monroe. There is your cast of characters, and they each have their own story to tell. Two things that must be remembered are: (1) nothing is coincidental, and (2) everyone is involved.

Kate Atkinson is a genius at putting together the most unlikely set of characters and hanging a plot off them. Bits and pieces of her design sometimes fall through the cracks because of the shifting points of view, but it all comes together brilliantly. Her talent for characterization is wonderful:

She hauled herself out of bed and padded along the hall, where she opened the door to Archie's bedroom-- she just needed to be completely sure that the nightmare had been a nightmare. Both boys were sprawled in sleep, Archie in his bed, Hamish in a sleeping bag on the floor. The room stank of boys. Louise imagined a girl's room would smell of nail varnish, pencils, cheap candy sweets. Archie's room was essence of testosterone and feet. In the gloom, she could just make out the rise and fall of Archie's breathing. She didn't bother examining Hamish for signs of life, boys like him should be culled as far as she was concerned.

Atkinson gets so far inside the heads of her characters that I think I would recognize each one if I met them on the street. This "inside the head" method of characterization is one of the best ways to get me hooked, and to get me to care about these people who only exist on the printed page. More than once I found myself talking to a character who began to do something I thought was rather ill-advised.

If you love mysteries with intricate plots and quirky, fully-fleshed characters, you won't go wrong by giving Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books a try!


  1. I read this one last year (reviewed it here - didn't like it quite as much as Case Histories, but it was good, and I'm looking forward to reading her newest.

  2. DYING to read this one! I'm glad to hear that you liked it.

  3. I don't think I've seen a single bad review of any of her books.

  4. Florinda...Julie...Patti...from what I hear, the third in the series When Will There Be Good News? blows the other two out of the water. I'm trying very hard to be good and not rush out to buy it!

  5. I read 'Case Histories' and while i liked it I wasn't all that thrilled about reading 'One Good Turn'. Maybe I'll give it a try now that liked it :-)


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