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One Good Turn: A Novel (Jackson Brodie Book 2)
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One Good Turn: A Novel (Jackson Brodie Book 2) [Kindle Edition]

Kate Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (194 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
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Editorial Reviews Review

Kate Atkinson began her career with a winner: Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which captured the Whitbread First Novel Award. She followed that success with four other books, the last of which was Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery-suspense-detective genre. In that book she introduced detective Jackson Brodie, who reopened three cold cases and ended up a millionaire. A great deal happened in-between.

In One Good Turn Jackson returns, following his girlfriend, Julia the actress, to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. He manages to fall into all kinds of trouble, starting with witnessing a brutal attack by "Honda Man" on another man stuck in a traffic jam. Is this road rage or something truly sinister? Another witness is Martin Canning, better known as Alex Blake, the writer. Martin is a shy, withdrawn, timid sort who, in a moment of unlikely action, flings a satchel at the attacker and spins him around, away from his victim. Gloria Hatter, wife of Graham, a millionaire property developer who is about to have all his secrets uncovered, is standing in a nearby queue with a friend when the attack takes place. There is nastiness afoot, and everyone is involved. Nothing is coincidental.

Through a labyrinthine plot which is hard to follow because the points of view are constantly changing, the real story is played out, complete with Russians, false and mistaken identities, dead bodies, betrayals, and all manner of violent encounters. Jackson gets pulled in to the investigation by Louise Monroe, a police detective and mother of an errant 14-year-old. There might be yet another novel to follow which will take up the connection those two forge in this book. Or, Jackson might just go back to France and feed apples to the local livestock.

Atkinson has written an enjoyable and lively story of no degrees of separation among the most unlikely cast of characters. Some plot lines have been left to drift, but it does hang together in a satisfying fashion. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Having won a wide following for her first crime novel (and fifth book), Case Histories (2004), Atkinson sends Det. Jackson Brodie to Edinburgh while girlfriend Julia performs in a Fringe Festival play. When incognito thug "Paul Bradley" is rear-ended by a Honda driver who gets out and bashes Bradley unconscious with a baseball bat, the now-retired Jackson is a reluctant witness. Other bystanders include crime novelist Martin Canning, a valiant milquetoast who saves Bradley's life, and tart-tongued Gloria Hatter, who's plotting to end her 39-year marriage to a shady real estate developer. Jackson walks away from the incident, but keeps running into trouble, including a corpse, the Honda man and sexy, tight-lipped inspector Louise Monroe. Everyone's burdened by a secret—infidelity, unprofessional behavior, murder—adding depth and many diversions. After Martin misses a visit from the Honda man (Martin's wonderfully annoying houseguest isn't so lucky), he enlists Jackson as a bodyguard, pulling the characters into closer orbit before they collide on Gloria Hatter's lawn. Along the way, pieces of plot fall through the cracks between repeatedly shifting points of view, and the final cataclysm feels forced. But crackling one-liners, spot-on set pieces and full-blooded cameos help make this another absorbing character study from the versatile, effervescent Atkinson. (Oct. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The second installment of the author's Jackson Brodie detective series is a complex jigsaw: when the driver of a rented Peugeot collides with a bat-wielding thug in a Honda Civic during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the outcome is seen through the eyes of numerous characters, including the whey-faced writer of cozy mysteries who comes to the driver's aid, the sardonic wife of a crooked real-estate developer, and Brodie himself, now retired and disgruntled about getting involved. The first Brodie book, "Case Histories," was propelled by a nuanced, psychological portrait of loss; here Atkinson's authoritative voice emerges only sporadically, and abrupt changes of scene disrupt the flow. Still, some of the characters, such as a snappy, overwhelmed single mother and cop, are finely rendered.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

From Bookmarks Magazine

Despite generally good reviews, what's wrong with One Good Turn is that it can't live up to its predecessor, Case Histories, in power or complexity. Here, the suspense lags and the resolutions feel somewhat forced: the very talented Kate Atkinson is certainly not stretching herself. But even if Atkinson's novel is "disposable" entertainment, readers will be glad to have the delightfully surly detective back in action. The novel's crackling one-liners, perceptive character studies, and amusing twists all help—but One Good Turn is mainly for ardent fans of Detective Brodie.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist

The literary novelist who caused a stir with her crossover into the mystery genre, Case Histories (2004), here offers an intricately plotted and quite amusing sequel. Jackson Brodie, a PI who inherited $1 million from a former client, is two years into retirement in the French countryside. Traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, for an arts festival with his actress girlfriend, Julia, also a former client, Jackson is feeling somewhat "unmanned" by his formless days, which he spends filling up his iPod with sad country songs and feeding apples to French donkeys. Then he happens on a case of road rage. As the witnesses, including a timid mystery author, are subsequently menaced by various and sundry thugs, Jackson traces the incidents back to the unsavory business dealings of a real-estate developer. Atkinson has a lot of fun playing against type, portraying writers and actors as leading small, unimaginative lives while revealing the hidden depths in an unassuming, longtime housewife. Although it's not as wonderful as its predecessor, this still makes for delightfully witty reading. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved



“This is a detective novel packed with more wit, insight, and subtlety than an entire shelf full of literary fiction… the plot is an incidental pleasure in a book crammed with quirky humour and cogent reflections on contemporary life…. Highly recommended reading.” — Marie Claire (5/5 Stars)

“[Atkinson] writes like an angel and her sense of humor is wed firmly to her formidable intelligence… a wonderful read…. I remain utterly impressed by Kate Atkinson. I’ll definitely be reading anything else she cares to publish.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

“The suspense ratchets up quickly and palpably, as surely as when the doctor experiments with different settings for your new pacemaker. . . . One Good Turn is full of a zippy satire that provides a smooth skating surface for the reader to whiz through. This is clean, purposeful prose that drives the plot, wickedly funny in places, sometimes quietly insightful and fairly faithful to the traditional mystery form. Atkinson’s novel is like something her detective might drink in the wee hours after knocking around the docks, something straight up with a twist.” —The Globe and Mail

One Good Turn is the most fun I’ve had with a novel this year.”–Ian Rankin, in the Guardian (UK)

“Thrillingly addictive. . . . In One Good Turn Atkinson proves quite unique in her ability to fuse emotional drama and thriller. She is so successful that it is surprising this has not been attempted more often (although it takes a writer of extraordinary range to bring it off).”–The Times (UK)

One Good Turn is an absolute joy to read. . . . The pleasure of One Good Turn lies in the ride, in Atkinson’s wry, unvanquished characters,...

About the Author

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. She has won several prizes for her short stories. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread First Novel Award and was then chosen as the overall 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year. She has written three further critically acclaimed novels: Human Croquet; Emotionally Weird; and Case Histories, and a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World.

From the Hardcover edition.

From The Washington Post

The title of Kate Atkinson's relentlessly inventive new novel is somewhat misleading. There are in fact many turns in her elaborately constructed plot, and several of them are pretty good indeed. Set in contemporary Edinburgh during its famous late-summer arts festival, the story opens with a fender-bender on a crowded city street that quickly escalates into the sort of shocking public violence that has become commonplace in the British Isles. The driver of the lead car, a mysterious man who goes by the name of Paul Bradley, is savagely attacked with a baseball bat by the driver of the second car. Just as the attacker is about to strike the fatal blow, a crime writer named Martin Canning intervenes by smacking the assailant with a bag containing his laptop. Among the other witnesses to this spasm of street violence are Jackson Brodie, a retired English policeman who has come to town to watch his girlfriend perform in a play on the festival's fringe; Gloria Hatter, the disillusioned wife of a local property tycoon; and the tearaway 14-year-old son of a local police detective named Louise Monroe.

Although the road-rage attack ends without lasting injury or arrest, it reverberates throughout the lives of each of these characters. Martin's quiet, almost cloistered life -- his murder mysteries are strangely bloodless affairs involving a virginal Scottish detective -- is broken wide open when he accompanies Paul Bradley to the emergency room, only to discover that the man he has saved just might be a hired assassin. Brodie, meanwhile, stumbles on the body of a dead Russian girl the day after leaving the accident scene, a discovery that brings him into contact with the detective, Louise, after she is dispatched to investigate. Gloria Hatter's life also becomes increasingly complicated when her husband suffers a heart attack while in the arms of a prostitute who bears a striking resemblance to the dead girl Brodie discovers.

After revealing the narrative connections that hold her varied cast together, Atkinson gradually tightens them. Her plot is structured on a series of coincidences that range from the inevitable to the wildly improbable. The bat-wielding thug, it turns out, might be allied with Gloria's husband. A washed-up comedian who is murdered in Martin's house, meanwhile, appears to be involved with Jackson's actress girlfriend.

It is no accident that the novel's predominant image is that of the familiar matryoshka dolls, each fitting snugly into another, that Martin brings back from an ill-fated trip to Russia a year before the novel's action. "Boxes within boxes, dolls within dolls, worlds within worlds," Jackson realizes near the novel's end. "Everything was connected. Everything in the whole world."

One Good Turn is a remarkable feat of storytelling bravado, though this is a quality that eventually works against the novel. In the early chapters, we can only sit back in admiration as Atkinson cracks open one perfectly formed narrative doll to reveal another. After a while, however, the conceit begins to wear thin. It seems as if the author is intent on drawing deeper and deeper connections among her characters no matter what the cost to the story's credibility. Indeed, the novel comes most powerfully alive when individual characters are able to escape the demands of Atkinson's rigorous plotting to express their own caustic humor.

Gloria is an attractive creation, a 59-year-old woman of considerable wit and humor who has only recently acknowledged that her life with an oafish, unprincipled husband has been wasted. Her meeting with the dominatrix who was with him when he was struck down is particularly funny. Curious, Gloria asks what degrading acts she made her husband perform. "Lick my boots, crawl on floor, eat like dog," the Russian explains. "Nothing useful, then, like hoovering?" the unfazed Gloria responds.

Atkinson also delivers with the mild-mannered Martin, who "thought of himself as someone who had been born middle-aged." His easy-listening crime novels are only obliquely mentioned, yet Atkinson still manages to evoke their sublime insipidity: "Put the gun down, Lord Hunterston! I know what happened out on the grouse shoot. Davy's death was no accident." The relationship between Jackson and his high-maintenance girlfriend, a minor-league actress who punctuates every sentence in her letters and e-mails with exclamation marks, also has its darkly comical dimension as she sends him jumping through hoops like one of the performers who clog Edinburgh's streets during the Festival.

In the end, however, these beguiling eruptions of personality are subsumed by the author's need to enlist her characters in her intricate plot. Revelations about Gloria's and Martin's secret lives in particular ring as hollow as those matryoshka dolls who fit together so well only because they are empty.

Reviewed by Stephen Amidon
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


HE WAS LOST. HE WASN'T USED TO BEING LOST. HE WAS THE KIND OF man who drew up plans and then executed them efficiently, but now everything was conspiring against him in ways he decided he couldn't have foreseen. He had been stuck in a jam on the A1 for two mind-numbing hours so that it was already past the middle of the morning when he arrived in Edinburgh.Then he'd gone adrift on a one-way system and been thwarted by a road closed because of a burst water main. It had been raining, steadily and unforgivingly, on the drive north and had only begun to ease off as he hit the outskirts of town.The rain had in no way deterred the crowds - it had never occurred to him that Edinburgh was in the middle of 'the Festival' and that there would be carnival hordes of people milling around as if the end of a war had just been declared. The closest he had previously got to the Edinburgh Festival was accidentally turning on Late Night Review and seeing a bunch of middle-class wankers discussing some pretentious piece of fringe theatre.

He ended up in the dirty heart of the city, in a street that somehow seemed to be on a lower level than the rest of the town, a blackened urban ravine.The rain had left the cobbles slick and greasy and he had to drive cautiously because the street was teeming with people, haphazardly crossing over or standing in little knots in the middle of the road, as if no one had told them that roads were for cars and pavements were for pedestrians. A queue snaked the length of the street - people waiting to get into what looked like a bomb hole in the wall but which announced itself, on a large placard outside the door, as 'Fringe Venue 164'.

The name on the driving licence in his wallet was Paul Bradley. 'Paul Bradley' was a nicely forgettable name. He was several degrees of separation away from his real name now, a name that no longer felt as if it had ever belonged to him.When he wasn't working he often (but not always) went by the name 'Ray'. Nice and simple.Ray of light, Ray of darkness. Ray of sunshine, Ray of night. He liked slipping between identities, sliding through the cracks. The rental Peugeot he was driving felt just right, not a flashy macho machine but the kind of car an ordinary guy would drive. An ordinary guy like Paul Bradley. If anyone asked him what he did, what Paul Bradley did, he would say,'Boring stuff. I'm just a desk jockey, pushing papers around in an accounts department.'

He was trying to drive and at the same time decipher his A-Z of Edinburgh to work out how to escape from 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 one day doing a degree.

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 got out of the way or he would have been pancaked. He looked in the rear-view mirror. A blue Honda Civic, the driver climbing out - big guy, slabs of weightlifter 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 done. 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 guy 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 managed only to get to a kneeling position as if he was 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 on to 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

From AudioFile

Millionaire Jackson Brodie, ex-cop and ex-PI, witnesses a "road rage" attack outside an Edinburgh theater. Small-time thug Paul Bradley is beaten with a baseball bat by the driver of the Honda that rear-ended him. Another witness, mystery writer Martin Canning, saves Bradley by throwing his laptop at the attacker's head. There are other witnesses, but it's Canning whom the "Honda Man" later begins to stalk. When Brodie agrees to "bodyguard" Canning, he's thrust into contact with a suspicious medley of shady characters. Robin Atkin Downes has a field day playing all the interlocking characters, and it's his Scots brogues and crackling one-liners that most impress the listener. A magnificent performance. M.T.B. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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