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One Good Turn (2006)
by Kate Atkinson
Books Read in 2017 (450)
Best Crime Fiction (102)
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Books Read in 2016 (3,031)
Female Author (633)
Books Read in 2014 (1,324)
Best Crime Fiction (20)
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Detective Stories (169)
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No current Talk conversations about this book.
Kate Atkinson is just not for me. I keep wanting to say to her, "Ok now we've had a few pages of imagining / backstory so can't we just get on with it?" ( )
(53) Even though Atkinson's 'Life after Life' is one of my favorite novels of all time, I read 'Case Histories,' the first in the Jackson Brodie mystery series many years ago and was unimpressed. But decided to give the series another try as a library loan. And you know what - it was pretty entertaining. Witnesses to a road rage incident are inextricably linked, including Jackson Brodie who is in Edinburg visiting with his girlfriend. He is no longer working as a cop having inherited a bunch of money (?maybe in the first novel; I forget) but the cop is working in him. In this novel, almost everyone knows more than the reader and the story is told in fits and starts with more being revealed with every new perplexing event. It mostly seems a parody of the crime novel and it is indeed kind of funny.
The characters are mostly caricatures but the detail and dramatic tension are well-done and kept me reading and guessing. Everything was neatly wrapped up with one little surprise tucked in right at the end - brilliant. So the writing is really quite clever. Why not a higher rating? I don't know - I think somehow the tongue-in-cheek nature of the novel detracts in some way I can't quite put my finger on. I like my mysteries gritty and a bit horrifying, not funny. Entertaining, but somehow it engenders a bit of cognitive dissonance in me that prevents me from taking the whole endeavor 'seriously.'
That being said - I am pretty sure I am going to keep reading the series now.
Kate Atkinson, when she moonlights as a crime novelist, takes with her a Dickensian delight in scrambling her characters in the kind of intricate, coincidence-laden plot that marks her “literary” fiction. Going Dickens one better, she limits her cast of characters to a few, for the most part previously unknown to each other.
In the novel that introduced her detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, three discrete stories are intertwined. In this second Brodie adventure, there is only one case, but it involves several side-plots and is narrated from the perspective of at least six characters. One is adopted only once, and a second appears twice, bookending the plot. But the remaining four interweave from chapter to chapter throughout the book. No two successive chapters continue the same narrative perspective. This sometimes requires a bit of narrative back-and-fill, especially as the book races to its conclusion.
The shifting narrative perspective allows Atkinson to make her characters “rounder” than in conventional genre fiction. One means she uses is interior monologue, in which one thought leads tangentially to another in the manner of stream-of-consciousness. These monologues often involve the memories of her characters, but they also go off on tangents about their likes and (more often) pet peeves. These may or may not reflect the views of the author, but I get the feeling that they were fun to write, and the best of them reveal insights into each character.
One image recurs in the book: matryoshka dolls. Toward the end of the book, Atkinson has her protagonist, Jackson, ruminate on them: “Boxes within boxes, dolls within dolls, worlds within worlds, everything was connected. Everything in the whole world.” Apparently, these dolls are meant as a metaphor for the book’s construction, but that feels overdone.
One way in which I think the image does apply is in the gender-bending the author engages in. Atkinson has created a male alter ego, whereas one of the characters in this book, the hapless, hopelessly non-literary (yet wildly successful) Martin, lives by his series of books about a female detective, Nina Riley. Boxes within boxes indeed.
Jackson’s meditation on the interconnectivity of the plot also leads him to wonder if he’s in a fiction. A nice pomo touch.
A good detective story needs a surprise in the end; when you reach the final pages, you have to rethink everything that came before. This one has a couple. The lesser of the two is very-well done. I didn’t see it coming, but when it did, I savored how well-prepared it had been. As for the major twist, even after going through the entire plot in my mind, it still feels arbitrary to me.
This didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book, however. Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer, and I’ll continue on to the rest of her books.
I know every time I read a Kate Atkinson book that there are going to be interweaving stories and characters. She does it about as well as anybody and ONE GOOD TURN is no exception. She manages to move around 4-5 different story lines along with them constantly bumping into each other and interacting so that eventually they all come together. It is quite a feat and makes for always interesting reading. Unlike her "literary fiction' this story is linear in time but it still requires skill and deft touch to make it work. It is all crazy but you find that the sentence "It wasn’t every day that a strange Russian dominatrix appeared out of nowhere and prowled around your house" makes perfect sense. I find her protagonist Jackson Brodie to be quite interesting with all his flaws. He manages to project a real humanity that is much more interesting that reading about the non-existent "perfect person." As always her language and sentences are exquisite. She is also prescient, a line like "Sometimes when Jackson turned on the television, he got the feeling that he was living in a terrible version of the future, one he didn’t remember signing up for" totally reads like 2020. The plot is quite complicated and strange and there is no need to even try to summarize it. But this might be close, "What were the true crimes? Capitalism, religion, sex? Murder—usually, but not necessarily. Theft—ditto. But cruelty and indifference were also crimes. As were bad manners and callousness. Worst of all was indifference." Indifference is truly cruel.
A bit slow for a murder mystery. Liked the setting in Edinborough
Provocative, entertaining and beautifully written. It’s not quite the tour de force that her Case Histories (2004) was, but this latest affords the happy sight of seeing Atkinson stretch out into speculative territory again.
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Jackson Brodie (2)
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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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)823.914Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Modern Period 1901-1999 1945-1999
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Hachette Book Group
2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.
Editions: 0316012823, 1594835950