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One Good Turn (2007)

One Good Turn (2007)

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3.78 of 5 Votes: 3
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0316012823 (ISBN13: 9780316012829)
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About book One Good Turn (2007)

One Good Turn is Atkinson's second novel to feature a character named Jackson Brodie, though I didn't realize it was part of a series until I had finished the book. That didn't seem to impact the story. The book is sort of a mystery, but it doesn't completely belong to the genre. There is a detective, and a crime, and a series of plot twists and turns, but I don't think the author was trying to write a piece of genre fiction. Had she tried to do just that, she may have been more successful; as it is, the book falls flat.The novel is not a mystery, but it's not a particularly enlightening piece of literature either, nor is it a portrait of especially intriguing characters. Like in Atkinson's novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum, the characters here each play a part in a much larger drama, the full extent of which is not revealed until the final act. There is a plot, and the story could have been captivating, but the problem is that Atkinson never allows us to be completely swept away in it. Her characters are flat, which makes the intricate plot seem silly. She tries to inject her characters with life, but instead fills them with sarcastic comments and absurd (but not quite comic) thoughts that reveal more about the author than the characters. Atkinson is just too present in the novel. She's on every page, shouting to the reader "Hey, this is just a book! Don't believe this crazy plot. Don't be fooled by the outrageous characters. They aren't real!" Which of course they aren't. But that's not why I'm reading.I suppose one could argue that an author might purposely remind her readers of the fictional elements of her work in order to reveal a truth. Perhaps by drawing a reader into the story world, then exposing it as mere fiction, the author draws attention in an illuminating way to the contrast between fiction and reality. I don't believe this is Atkinson's aim in One Good Turn. Here, there's no balance between the larger-than-life plot and reality, making the story seem absurd and the characters merely characters. Thus, I found the novel neither enlightening nor enjoyable.

I remember a scolding from one of my high school English teachers to the effect that my classmates and I should only read books that made us better people and stop wasting our time with the other stuff. I'm not sure Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels would rise to her standard. They're probably frustrating for mystery readers who value focused, logical plots and a clear sense of right and wrong in a novel, too. But I love these books. Atkinson's writing, her characters, and her observations of the world are wonderful in every way - sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes melancholy, always smart. The plots ramble all over the place and rely on coincidence and irony too much by half, but I have such a good time with the reading that I don't care. This particular novel took me a few chapters to get into - Atkinson has a bad habit of introducing a character caught up in a dramatic moment and then freezing the action for too many pages while she lays out the character's backstory. I also had a hard time sorting out the characters at first - they all talk to themselves in the same quirky voice, which makes them hard to distinguish on the page. But once the story gets going, it's riveting, and all along the way, Atkinson's writing is a joy to read. "One Good Turn" is a great pick for vacation reading, or a long plane ride - any environment that allows uninterrupted reading.

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Honestly? I was a little bored. Atkinson's other Jackson Brodie novels are far superior--more involving, more exciting, more *everything*. I had skipped this one because it wasn't readily available at my library, and quite honestly, it could've stayed unread without hindering my enjoyment of the rest of the series. The main fault was a lack of focus. I seriously didn't really know what the main thrust of the mystery was--what the crime was, in a crime novel!--for at least a hundred pages, if not more. There were crimes committed, sure, but nothing definite for Brodie to investigate, even as he manages to entangle himself with all the important characters. Brodie himself fades into the background somewhat in the onslaught of characters, and I missed his voice. I still think Atkinson is a gifted writer, but this outing was a definite misfire.

This is the second book in the Jackson Brodie series and we now find Brodie in Edinburgh, which now matched up somewhat with the TV series. In this story, Brodie is only in Edinburgh because girlfriend, Julia, who we met in the first book has an acting job during Edinburgh's festival. Brodie is a retired police detecive/ private detective and finds himself somewhat out of pace during this visit. He doesn't really know what to do to occupy his time but suddenly becomes involved in a road rage incident and then finds a dead body, which also manages to disappear on him. We are introduced to a cast of interesting characters; writer Martin Canning, from the road rage incident, Gloria Hatter, the wife of conman Graham and my favourite character, Detective Sergeant Louise Monroe. The story rotates from each character's perspective and moves along nicely, gradually interconnecting their individual storylines. It's an intelligent, well-written, entertaining story and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. I enjoyed the TV series immensely and the books, so far, have not let me down at all.

I loved Case Histories, the first book in the Jackson Brodie series, but was less sure about this one. It was....odd, but odd in a good way! It’s part murder mystery, part tour-de-farce, part complete confusion. As with Case Histories, it’s character lead rather than plot lead, which I enjoyed. I grew very fond of some of the characters and liked being inside their heads as they took us through their thoughts, relived their pasts and got caught up in this crazy story in both comical and touching ways. The plot was where it came unstuck for me. It seemed like it was heading to a conclusion, there were lots of details and story-links, but when we got there, it seemed rushed, disjointed and unfinished. There were a couple of neat twists at the end, but overall, I was left saying 'eh?'I still enjoyed it though, and for a long while I even thought it might be heading for four stars. Kate Atkinson has a unique take on story-telling, and I'll definitely be getting the next book in this series. But like I say, this one was....odd!

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