Sunday, June 12, 2011

The most fun you can have with a crime novel: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

This is the second of the Atkinson novels featuring private investigator Jackson Brodie.  It reads differently to Case Histories, the first of the series.  Unlike Case Histories, which is more symmetrical  in it's narrative, there are more twists and complexities in One Good Turn than one would find  in the back streets of Edinburgh (where this story is set).  It is however, just as satisfying if not more so, than the first novel. 

But what really stands out with One Good Turn, is that Atkinson is deliberately turning the crime novel on its head and having some real fun with it. Nor is this book what is generally referred to as "cosy fiction" either.  Atikinson manages to combine pith and pathos with witty humour and irony.  I have read more crime fiction, of every sort, than bears thinking about, and these novels really offer something unique.

Poor ol' Jackson is at a bit of a loose end at the start of this novel. His  girlfriend is taking part in a truly awful play as part of the festival. But after witnessing a road rage incident, Jackson is soon caught up in events that include murder, dodgy housing developments, brutish felons, a risque cleaning service and a paid assassin. 

As with Case Histories, Atkinson creates a wonderful sense of place, this time in Edinburgh.  I have been to that magical fairy land city and as Jackson remarks in the novel, it does often seem like everyone there is a tourist or a student.

Mixed in with this clever escapade, is a good exploration of how guilt and longing are so often a large part of  what drives people.  All of the characters, including dear Jackson, find themselves wondering what might have been over major life decisions and how those decisions have transported them to this crazy few days at the Edinburgh Festival. 

Atkinson's nimble plotting left me breathless, but what I love most about these novels is that neither she nor her leading man Jackson, take themselves too seriously.  Whatever emotional, or physical, mess Jackson gets himself into, he promptly dusts himself off for the next dose of life.   And I for one, can't wait to read where life next takes him.


  1. I had Case Histories on my TBR for awhile and the last time I was at the bookstore I picked it up but opted out of buying it at the last minute. Now I'm wishing I bought it.

  2. I read Case Histories last year and just loved it. Totally looking forward to reading this one. She does something so different with a murder mystery/detective story that it doesn't seem right to describe it as such as it would do it an injustice. She's created her own little genre I think.

  3. Thanks for the review. I'll put this on my list.


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