Sunday, February 04, 2007

One Good Turn

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Edinburgh is abuzz with the annual Fringe Festival, packed to the gills with tourists taking in the festival fare. When a road rage incident leaves one visitor to the city hospitalized, a complex net of mystery and intrigue begins to envelop everyone who witnessed the attack.

Ex-cop, ex-private investigator Jackson Brodie (the protagonist of Atkinson’s 2004 hit, Case Histories) is suffering from post-retirement depression. A visit to Edinburgh with his potentially-unfaithful girlfriend, small-time actress Julia, does nothing to brighten his mood. His trip goes from bad to worse in quick succession as he first finds the body of a dead girl, which mysteriously disappears taking with it his credibility, and then is attacked by "Honda Man," the perpetrator of the road rage incident he witnessed the day before. When he realizes that the two incidents must be connected – after all "a coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen" is his mantra – Brodie is determined to figure out what’s going on, much to the chagrin of Detective Inspector Louise Monroe, who has enough problems to worry about without Brodie interfering with her investigations.

Russian matryoshka dolls are a fitting theme for this wonderfully complex novel of plots within plots. Peopled with a variety of finely drawn characters, One Good Turn is evidence of Atkinson's ability to infuse the crime genre with the literary fiction that has been her trademark since she debuted with the Whitbread-winning Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

Although One Good Turn is Atkinson's second book featuring Jackson Brodie, it does stand on its own. While readers of Case Histories enjoy a better understanding of Brodie's backstory, there is nothing in One Good Turn that hinges on knowledge gained in Case Histories. Fans of Atkinson's stouthearted protagonist will be happy to know that the author leaves herself room for another sequel.

Read my full review of the audio version on Armchair Interviews.

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