One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson


This is my sixth of Kate Atkinson’s books, the third of her Jackson Brodie series. It was a pleasure to pick up this book and fall into her clutches again.

What I’ve written before about this series holds true for the most part:  Brodie, formerly in the Army, police, and private detective business, goes against type. Though he’s no longer a detective, he seems to happen upon dead bodies and murderous men more than your average person. He is invariably the good guy here and in this book, there are mighty few of them.

The author does deliver the odd interesting character; in this one there’s Gloria, who believes stoicism is a very underrated virtue in the modern world.

Now she daydreamed about being the keeper at the gates, of standing with the ultimate ledger and ticking off the names of the dead as they appeared before her, giving them the nod through or the thumbs-down. All those people who parked in bus bays and ran the red light on pedestrian crossings were going to be very sorry when Gloria peered at them over the top of her spectacles and asked them to account for themselves.

The action takes place during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh over three days and begins with a road rage incident near the entrance to one of the events. Most of the characters happen to be present, though they did not know each other and do not recognize each other as the plot unfolds. The author moves the plot forward through the activities of each character independently.

As with other Jackson Brodie books the coincidences pile up on each other and the author is unapologetic about it. When one of the characters tells a policewoman he writes crime novels, she says blithely, “Really? That’s ironic isn’t it? Fiction stranger than truth and all that.”

Though some of the characters have had an unusual amount of misfortune in the form of violent death of their loved ones, this one was not as excruciatingly grim as Case Histories.

The author worked in a mention of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony being broadcast in August 1942 during the siege, as she did in Transcription, her most recent book.

Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn, Little, Brown, 2006, 418 pages (I read the kindle version). Available in the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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