I don’t usually choose crime novels when selecting fictitious fare, although I have read my fair share of them in the past (John Grisham, Stuart Woods, Mario Puzo, John le Carré). However, One Good Turn by Edinburgh-based, bestselling author Kate Atkinson was a welcome change of pace and a literary mystery novel that unravels several crimes slowly and with great intrigue as well as humour. Atkinson’s characterizations are so detailed and the plot so complex that I really don’t know what to say about it that will do it any more justice than all the professional, critically acclaimed media reviews that have come before. It was an absolute delight to read and one helluva gripping page turner!
One Good Turn is set in contemporary Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which for me, made for an interesting backdrop because I’m such an Arts lover and I’ve always wanted to attend the Festival. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t as much detail about it as I’d hoped but it didn’t put me off the rest of the story and it does include a has-been stand-up comedian named Richard Mott to lend authenticity. Although the book reintroduces former police inspector turned man-of-leisure millionaire Jackson Brodie and his aloof actress girlfriend Julia (who I didn’t like one bit but has a play running at the Festival which is why Brodie’s in Edinburgh) from Atkinson’s previous novel, Case Histories, you don’t have to have read it to enjoy the suspenseful One Good Turn.
The plot revolves around the participants in and witnesses of a fender bender that’s immediately followed by a brutal road rage attack. This action sets the stage for a series of exciting and complicated events that are all interrelated but we don’t know exactly how until the end of the story, which concludes in a matter of four days, in one of those whopping A-HA moments!
The narration oscillates between the main characters which include an asexual, diffident but thriving crime novelist named Martin Canning (a.k.a. Alex Blake who writes about a 1940s English female detective named Nina Riley and is vaguely reminiscent of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote) who witnesses the baseball bat beating by thug Terrence Smith of unsuspecting motorist Paul Bradley. Martin reacts by throwing his laptop at Smith which knocks him off of Bradley just in time for the police to step in and then Martin finds himself accompanying Bradley to the hospital and strangeness ensues.
The incident is also witnessed by Jackson Brodie (who additionally discovers a female floater in the bay which sets up an equally interesting subplot), Archie Monroe and Gloria Hatter, a middle-aged, wealthy woman with a penchant for following rules, who is ironically married to criminal construction tycoon Graham of Hatter Homes – Real Homes For Real People – and stands as the moral center of the story.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is struggling with a 24/7 career that leaves little time for her to keep an eye on her 14-year-old son Archie, who goaded on by his buddy Hamish, may or may not be sinking into dark waters that are too deep for him to tread…or is that Brodie who is falling deeper and deeper into the mystifying peripheral events of the story?
One Good Turn embodies really great storytelling and even the secondary characters will keep the reader enthralled.
The novel also includes a conversation with the author at the back of the book, questions and topics for discussion if chosen by a book club, and the first chapter of Atkinson’s subsequent novel, When Will There Be Good News?, which gives One Good Turn’s Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and Jackson Brodie another mystery to solve.
Jackson Brodie also stars in her latest novel, Started Early, Took My Dog and according to Atkinson’s website he will soon be appearing in a six-part television series adapted from Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? for BBC One. Now, I’ll have to go back and read all of these books because I know they’ll make for some terrific television! But who will play Jackson Brodie?! (I think Colin Firth or Eric Bana might be a good choice!)