Whitbread Award winner Kate Atkinson struck pay dirt with her fourth novel, the breakthrough Case Histories, a dazzling thriller that introduced the engaging detective Jackson Brodie. Now, to our everlasting delight, Atkinson returns her protaganist to active duty in this stunning sequel that opens rather spectacularly with a shocking incident of road rage on an Edinburgh street. Witnessed by Brodie and a motley crew of bystanders, this episode triggers a chain of bizarre events linking everyone -- victim, attacker, and specators -- in startling, unexpected ways. As in her other "literary" novels, Atkinson digs deep into her characters' lives, rifling through their sad and sinster secrets and exposing complicated relationships with deft precision. Suffused with wit and gentle humor, and enlivened by a folksy, "entre nous" prose style that turns readers into co-conspirators, here is One Good Turn that surely deserves another.
… a remarkable feat of storytelling bravado …
The Washington Post
In the past Ms. Atkinson has played the minor time trick of letting events almost converge and then replaying them from slightly different points of view. She does that here to the same smart, unnerving effect. And she frequently brings up the image of Russian dolls, each hidden inside another, to illustrate how her storytelling tactics work.
By the apt ending of One Good Turn a whole series of these dolls has been opened. In the process the book has borne out one of Jackson’s favorite maxims: "A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen."
The New York Times
A crowd on a busy street at Edinburgh's famous Fringe Festival witness a brutal crime. Downes has the task of portraying half a dozen characters who become entangled in the complex aftermath of what looks at first like a straightforward assault. A master of dialect, Downes portrays several characters from different classes and locales in England and Scotland with apparent ease. He also takes on, with gusto, the voice of a mysterious Russian woman. Exceptionally well performed is the voice of Martin Canning, a successful crime writer whose sleuth is decidedly more masculine than his creator. Downes has a firm grip on the swings in Martin's personality: he is by turns frightened and apologetic, yet cunning and secretive. Best known for his role in the British television series Babylon 5, Downes uses Atkinson's novel to display his range. He is aided by the seamlessly abridged text of a delightful crime novel that refuses to let the characters be merely victims or victimizers. For audio enthusiasts, this is a "must hear." Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, July 17). (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Whitbread Award winner Atkinson puts a thoroughly enjoyable spin on this character-driven detective novel, the follow-up to Case Histories. After receiving a surprise bequest, quitting his job, and moving to a French village, former detective Jackson Brodie is torn between wanting to live a quiet, idyllic life and feeling purposeless. He's visiting Edinburgh with his self-involved, increasingly distant lover, Julia, who's acting in a minor play in an arts festival. At loose ends, Brodie witnesses a road-rage incident that sets off a dazzling chain of coincidences involving a hired assassin, a meek historical mystery writer, an obnoxious stand-up comedian, Russian prostitutes, and a loathsome real estate developer and his stoic, long-suffering wife. Atkinson skillfully links the characters to one another, revealing twists from their various points of view, and in Brodie creates a likable star. Once involved in the case, he reverts to a pleasingly take-charge, strong-but-silent type who will leave readers eagerly awaiting his next outing. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.]-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A murder mystery with comic overtones from the award-winning British storyteller. Resurrecting Jackson Brodie, the private eye from Case Histories (2004), Atkinson confects a soft-hearted thriller, short on menace but long on empathy and introspection. Her intricate, none-too-serious plot is triggered by an act of road rage witnessed by assorted characters in Edinburgh during the annual summer arts festival. Mysterious possible hit man "Paul Bradley" is rear-ended by Terence Smith, a hard-man with a baseball bat who is stopped from beating Bradley to a pulp by mild-mannered crime-novelist Martin Canning, who throws his laptop at him. Other onlookers include Brodie, accompanied by his actress girlfriend, Julia; Gloria Hatter, wife of fraudulent property-developer Graham Hatter (of Hatter Homes, Real Homes for Real People); and schoolboy Archie, son of single-mother policewoman Louise Monroe, who lives in a crumbling Hatter home. Labyrinthine, occasionally farcical plot developments repeatedly link the group. Rounding out the criminal side of the story are at least two dead bodies; an omniscient Russian dominatrix who even to Gloria seems "like a comedy Russian"; and a mysterious agency named Favors. Brodie's waning romance with Julia and waxing one with Louise; a dying cat; children; dead parents and much more are lengthily considered as Atkinson steps away from the action to delve into her characters' personalities. Clearly, this is where her heart lies, not so much with the story's riddles, the answers to which usually lie with Graham Hatter, who has been felled by a heart attack and remains unconscious for most of the story. There are running jokes and an enjoyable parade of neatresolutions, but no satisfying denouement. Everything is connected, often amusingly or cleverly, but nothing matters much. A technically adept and pleasurable tale, but Atkinson isn't stretching herself.
Read an Excerpt
One Good Turn A Novel
By Kate Atkinson
LITTLE, BROWN Copyright © 2006 Kate Atkinson
All right reserved.
Chapter One He was trying to drive and at the same time decipher his A-Z of Edinburgh to work out how to escape this hellish street, when someone stepped in front of the car. It was a type he loathed-a young, dark-haired guy with thick, black-framed spectacles, two days of stubble, and a fag hanging out of his mouth, there were hundreds of them in London, all trying to look like French existentialists from the sixties. He'd bet that not one of them had ever opened a book on philosophy. He'd read the lot-Plato, Kant, Hegel-even thought about getting a degree someday.
He braked hard and didn't hit the spectacles guy, just made him give a little jump, like a bullfighter avoiding the bull. The guy was furious, waving his fag around, shouting, raising a finger to him. Charmless, devoid of manners-were his parents proud of the job they'd done? He hated smoking, it was a disgusting habit, hated guys who gave you the finger and screamed, "Spin on it," saliva flying out of their filthy, nicotine-stained mouths.
He felt the bump, about the same force as hitting a badger or a fox on a dark night, except it came from behind, pushing him forward. It was just as well the spectacles guy had performed his little paso doble and gotten out of the way or hewould have been pancaked. He looked in the rearview mirror. A blue Honda Civic, the driver climbing out-a big guy with slabs of weight-lifter muscle, gym-fit rather than survival-fit, he wouldn't have been able to last three months in the jungle or the desert the way that Ray could have. He wouldn't have lasted a day. He was wearing driving gloves, ugly black leather ones with knuckle holes. He had a dog in the back of the car, a beefy rottweiler, exactly the dog you would have guessed a guy like that would have. The man was a walking cliché. The dog was having a seizure in the back, spraying saliva all over the window, its claws scrabbling on the glass. The dog didn't worry him too much. He knew how to kill dogs.
Ray got out of the car and walked round to the back bumper to inspect the damage. The Honda driver started yelling at him, "You stupid fucking twat, what did you think you were doing?" English. Ray tried to think of something to say that would be nonconfrontational, that would calm the guy down-you could see he was a pressure cooker waiting to blow, wanting to blow, bouncing on his feet like an out-of-condition heavyweight. Ray adopted a neutral stance, a neutral expression, but then he heard the crowd give a little collective "Aah" of horror and he registered the baseball bat that had suddenly appeared in the guy's hand out of nowhere and thought, Shit.
That was the last thought he had for several seconds. When he was able to think again he was sprawled on the street, holding the side of his head where the guy had cracked him. He heard the sound of broken glass, the bastard was putting in every window in his car now. He tried, unsuccessfully, to struggle to his feet but only managed to get to a kneeling position as if he were at prayer, and now the guy was advancing with the bat lifted, feeling the heft of it in his hand, ready to swing for a home run on his skull. Ray put an arm up to defend himself, made himself even more dizzy by doing that, and, sinking back onto the cobbles, thought, Jesus, is this it? He'd given up, he'd actually given up-something he'd never done before-when someone stepped out of the crowd, wielding something square and black that he threw at the Honda guy, clipping him on the shoulder and sending him reeling.
He blacked out again for a few seconds, and when he came to there were a couple of policewomen hunkered down beside him, one of them saying, "Just take it easy, sir," the other one on her radio calling for an ambulance. It was the first time in his life that he'd been glad to see the police.
Excerpted from One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson Copyright © 2006 by Kate Atkinson. Excerpted by permission.
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