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One Good Turn: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
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One Good Turn: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Kate Atkinson

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2,9841481,913 (3.76)350
Member:bfister
Title:One Good Turn: A Novel
Authors:Kate Atkinson
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2006), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Edinburgh, crime fiction, coincidence

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One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (2006)

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English (141)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (148)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
An enigmatic Jackson Brodi mystery. The story is much like the matryoshka dolls which metaphorically appear in the story. Loved the Edinburgh setting. ( )
  tangledthread | Dec 16, 2014 |
Interlocking stories beginning with a good turn that eventually goes wrong. The analogy with the matryoshka doll is very cleverly accomplished, because that's exactly what this book is - a story within a story within a story... The events are fast moving and the characters are that peculiar mix that might be found anywhere. Jackson is a very appealing sleuth, even though his relationships usually match his favoured hurtin' country music. Atkinson is a genius at allowing the reader to have the unusual experience of a good hoot of laughter while reading a crime novel. Excellent! ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Dec 9, 2014 |
When she is describing a character's perceptions or beliefs, Atkinson conveys the cynnicism and wit of a young Margaret Atwood. But wit alone does not tie together a complex tale of multiple characters intersecting at Edinburgh's annual arts Festival. Structurally, the book takes a wrong choice in that rather than telling the tale chronologically, the author chooses to devote each chapter to a different player--and to mark his progress toward the ultimate resolution. Then the character fades and it might be fifty or sixty pages by the time he or she makes their return to cast a bit more perspective on what's going on for all. It becomes quickly tedius, and bleeds away any narrative momentum. This is not to say that the book has no pleasures; but they are interwoven into each character and therefore we have to wait for the next orbit the reunite with a favorite. In addition, the ultimate resolution, the action that put the whole book in play, is related by a character who had disappeared and hasn't been heard from for most of the novel. In 2 or 3 short paragraphs he describes who set the game in play. It's a throw away gesture and does not convey any emotion at all. ( )
  neddludd | Oct 25, 2014 |
Kate Atkinson’s novel reminds me of the customary list, the dramatis personae, that appeared in printed copies of plays from the Elizabethan period onward announcing the characters one would expect to strut their stuff on the stage.

SO-AND-SO, King of Such-and-Such
THINGUMAJIG, heir to the throne of Such-and-Such
A gravedigger
FLIBBERTIGIBBET, Queen of Somewhere Else
A nurse
Attendants, courtiers, peasants etc.

For practical purposes — read-throughs, programme notes, students — that’s all very helpful, but from a dramatic point of view it makes little sense: an audience would want the characters, like the play’s narrative, to unfold before their very eyes, and a bald roster of who appears doesn’t normally tell you an awful lot.

So, what if I were to present the principal players in One Good Turn in a similar manner — would that be any different?

Paul Bradley, a road rage victim
Terence Smith, Graham Hatter’s assistant
Martin Canning, a crime writer
Gloria Hatter, wife to Graham Hatter
Graham Hatter, a property developer
Jackson Brodie, a retired private detective
Julia, an actor
Archie and Hamish, schoolboys
Richard Moat, stand-up comic
Tatiana, a call girl
Louise Munroe, a detective inspector
Assistants, actors, passers-by etc.

And that would still tell us very little. But what Kate Atkinson does is in successive chapters is to introduce each protagonist to us from their own points of view, almost as if they had each stepped out onto a virtual stage. The third person narrative manages to recreate each individual’s internal soliloquys, which makes it easy for us to empathise with aspects of each person’s character — in particular, Martin the writer’s self doubts, Gloria the long-suffering wife’s dissatisfaction, the bemusement of Jackson (hero of the author’s previously published Case Histories) and career police officer Louise’s isolation — as they are faced with the unfolding drama.

And drama it is. It is August, the period of summer madness that is the Edinburgh Festival in the early noughties. In the course of four days — Tuesday to Friday — a young woman is drowned, a driver is the victim of road rage, a man is rushed to ICU after a session with a call girl, a stand-up dies in more ways than one, a man is shot, and a dog and a cat face death. All this against a background of plays, book readings, the usual Fringe street entertainment and a circus — all with their own incidental narratives: for example, Jackson’s girlfriend Julia is in a play called Looking for the Equator in Greenland and Martin writes period crime novels set in an early 20th-century Scotland.

It’s tempting to complete the title One Good Turn with ‘Deserves Another’. It’s true that justice of a sort is done in most cases, though rarely is it ever done in an orthodox way, but we do feel that everyone gets their just deserts. I think there is also a performance aspect to the title, as ‘turn’ can also mean a variety show act, and of course a visiting Russian circus features in the action, adding to a growing sense of surrealism.

The surrealism is disconcerting at first, especially as coincidence piles on coincidence — at one point Jackson Brodie shakes his head in disbelief at resulting synchronicities — but Atkinson’s skill is in making us accept them because the writing, characterisation and plotting are all so compelling. One aspect of the surrealism is the unacknowledged parallel with the Punch & Judy puppet show. The interactions frequently recall incidents in the seaside entertainment: a Mr Punch-like character who bludgeons people (“That’s the way to do it!”), a long-suffering wife, a baby whose existence is threatened, a police officer, an executioner (handgun rather than hangman’s rope), a dog Toby substitute, a clown. The only things missing are the sausages and the crocodile.

So, how to regard this novel? The clue is in its subtitle. It’s jolly, full of fun and humorous touches, despite the gruesomeness. It includes murder most foul, most definitely. And mystery — Atkinson keeps us guessing right the way to the end, even including the envoi, with its twist in the tale just after the main revelations are made. Underlying all is that strong sense of justice that convinces us matches the author’s convictions, the passionate dislike of sociopathic behaviours and the antisocial attitudes of grasping entrepreneurs.

But, above all, I found this an enjoyable read, the work of an accomplished writer. That’s the way to do it!

http://wp.me/p2oNj1-17A ( )
  ed.pendragon | Oct 9, 2014 |
Kate Atkinson seems to go from strength to strength, as does her regular protagonist, Jackson Brodie. There is no point burying the lead - I loved this book the first time I read it, and enjoyed it even more re-reading it now. In some ways it was like shooting fish in a barrel for me, featuring a host of aspects that might have been designed specifically to appeal to me: Edinburgh, the festival, a complex but very plausible plot, along with a very humorous parody of crime fiction itself.

The story opens with a vicous episode of road rage on the streets of Edinburgh which ends with one driver being beaten senseless by the man whose car had shunted into him. The crowds queuing to enter one of the venues for a show on the Fringe look on aghast, but all are frozen into inactivity and are incapable of intervening ... with one exception. Martin Canning is an unassuming and physically unimpressive man, but as he watches, horrified, while the beating continues, something in his mind snaps and he hurls his rucksack at the attacker. This breaks his flow and the interruption causes the attacker to withdraw. Martin Canning then accompanies the victim to hospital and stays with him for the rest of the day.

We gradually learn more about Martin Canning who, as Alex Blake, has been a very successful writer of crime novels in the 'cosy' mode. Little does he realise that he is about to be sucked into a plot that dwarfs the ones from his novels in its complexity and capacity to terrify.

Meanwhile Jackson Brodie, who also witnessed the attack, is in Edinburgh with his partner Julia Land, an aspiring (though not particularly talented) actress who has landed a part in a play being staged at one of the Fringe venues. Brodie has an interesting past - former soldier, former police inspector, and former private detective, he is now more or les retired after having inherited a huge fortune from one of his clients. He is, however, restless and struggles with his luxurious life.

While preparations for her play take up all of Julia's time he takes to exploring Edinburgh and, after some aimless wandering, ends up at Cramond, one of Edinburgh's affluent commuter overspill towns. He wanders across a causeway to an island in the Forth where he discovers the corpse of a beautiful woman. However, before he can summon help, or even secure the body, the turning tide sweeps in and pulls the corpse away, almost drowning Brodie into the bargain.

These are just two of the more prominent plot-lines, though there are several more, all of which are deftly handled, and resolved with a masterful denouement. Brodie is a brilliantly drawn character - far from flawless but overwhelmingly sympathetic. In fact, all of the characters are equally credible and engaging.

AND, there's even a cat! ( )
3 vote Eyejaybee | Jun 17, 2014 |
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Book description
It is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident - an incident which changes the lives of everyone involved. Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective, is also an innocent bystander - until he becomes a suspect.

With Case Histories, Kate Atkinson showed how brilliantly she could explore the crime genre and make it her own. In One Good Turn she takes her masterful plotting one step further. Like a set of Russian dolls each thread of the narrative reveals itself to be related to the last. Her Dickensian cast of characters are all looking for love or money and find it in surprising places. As ever with Atkinson what each one actually discovers is their true self.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316012823, Paperback)

Kate Atkinson began her career with a winner: Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which captured the Whitbread First Novel Award. She followed that success with four other books, the last of which was Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery-suspense-detective genre. In that book she introduced detective Jackson Brodie, who reopened three cold cases and ended up a millionaire. A great deal happened in-between.

In One Good Turn Jackson returns, following his girlfriend, Julia the actress, to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. He manages to fall into all kinds of trouble, starting with witnessing a brutal attack by "Honda Man" on another man stuck in a traffic jam. Is this road rage or something truly sinister? Another witness is Martin Canning, better known as Alex Blake, the writer. Martin is a shy, withdrawn, timid sort who, in a moment of unlikely action, flings a satchel at the attacker and spins him around, away from his victim. Gloria Hatter, wife of Graham, a millionaire property developer who is about to have all his secrets uncovered, is standing in a nearby queue with a friend when the attack takes place. There is nastiness afoot, and everyone is involved. Nothing is coincidental.

Through a labyrinthine plot which is hard to follow because the points of view are constantly changing, the real story is played out, complete with Russians, false and mistaken identities, dead bodies, betrayals, and all manner of violent encounters. Jackson gets pulled in to the investigation by Louise Monroe, a police detective and mother of an errant 14-year-old. There might be yet another novel to follow which will take up the connection those two forge in this book. Or, Jackson might just go back to France and feed apples to the local livestock.

Atkinson has written an enjoyable and lively story of no degrees of separation among the most unlikely cast of characters. Some plot lines have been left to drift, but it does hang together in a satisfying fashion. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Millionaire ex-detective Jackson Brodie follows his girlfriend to Edinburgh for the famous arts festival, but when he witnesses a brutal attack on a man, he becomes caught up in a string of events that draw him into a deadly conspiracy.

(summary from another edition)

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