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One Good Turn: A Novelby Kate Atkinson
It's hard to believe Kate Atkinson could follow up Case Histories with such a superb — may I suggest even superior? — novel: sly and witty, honest and humane, and, finally, complex and suspenseful. One could not ask for more than the whole package that is One Good Turn. It is undoubtedly my favorite novel of 2006.
Synopses & Reviews
Two years after the events of Case Histories left him a retired millionaire, Jackson Brodie has followed Julia, his occasional girlfriend and former client, to Edinburgh for its famous summer arts festival. But when he witnesses a man being brutally attacked in a traffic jam — the apparent victim of an extreme case of road rage — a chain of events is set in motion that will pull the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a timid but successful crime novelist, and a hardheaded female police detective into Jackson's orbit. Suddenly out of retirement, Jackson is once again in the midst of several mysteries that intersect in one giant and sinister scheme.
"Having won a wide following for her first crime novel (and fifth book), Case Histories (2004), Atkinson sends Det. Jackson Brodie to Edinburgh while girlfriend Julia performs in a Fringe Festival play. When incognito thug 'Paul Bradley' is rear-ended by a Honda driver who gets out and bashes Bradley unconscious with a baseball bat, the now-retired Jackson is a reluctant witness. Other bystanders include crime novelist Martin Canning, a valiant milquetoast who saves Bradley's life, and tart-tongued Gloria Hatter, who's plotting to end her 39-year marriage to a shady real estate developer. Jackson walks away from the incident, but keeps running into trouble, including a corpse, the Honda man and sexy, tight-lipped inspector Louise Monroe. Everyone's burdened by a secret — infidelity, unprofessional behavior, murder — adding depth and many diversions. After Martin misses a visit from the Honda man (Martin's wonderfully annoying houseguest isn't so lucky), he enlists Jackson as a bodyguard, pulling the characters into closer orbit before they collide on Gloria Hatter's lawn. Along the way, pieces of plot fall through the cracks between repeatedly shifting points of view, and the final cataclysm feels forced. But crackling one-liners, spot-on set pieces and full-blooded cameos help make this another absorbing character study from the versatile, effervescent Atkinson." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Atkinson's bright voice rings on every page, and her sly and wry observations move the plot as swiftly as suspense turns the pages of a thriller." San Francisco Chronicle
"[A]n intricately plotted and quite amusing sequel....Although it's not as wonderful as its predecessor, this still makes for delightfully witty reading." Booklist
"[A] soft-hearted thriller, short on menace but long on empathy and introspection....A technically adept and pleasurable tale, but Atkinson isn't stretching herself." Kirkus Reviews
"Atkinson skillfully links the characters to one another, revealing twists from their various points of view, and in Brodie creates a likable star....Highly recommended." Library Journal
"The pleasure here lies in watching the intricate branches of Atkinson's plot unfurl, and in savoring the tart, quirky character portraits that hang from them." Laura Miller, Salon.com
"One Good Turn does some dawdling. Too much perhaps. Case Histories was a tighter book....This time Ms. Atkinson incorporates a good deal of the family histories of the characters, and some have similar backgrounds." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Atkinson's tart prose still sparkles, but while all the plot pieces connect, they never quite click. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"One Good Turn and Case Histories lack a certain sense of ambition, of risk-taking, and use contemporary life without engaging it....Atkinson retains her always alluring style, but her vision has shrunk rather than expanded." Jane Smiley, The Los Angeles Times
"One Good Turn crackles with energy and imagination." Chicago Tribune
"Entertaining both as a murder mystery and as a sprawling multi-character study in the best post-Nashville tradition." The Onion AV Club
Following her mystery debut Case Histories with this percipient, funny, and totally satisfying read, Atkinson once again features ex-cop turned private investigator Jackson Brodie — except this time he is the prime suspect in a deadly crime.
About the Author
Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread First Novel Award and was then chosen as the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year. She is the author of a short story collection, Not the End of the World, and three other critically acclaimed novels, Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, and Case Histories. She lives in Edinburgh.
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