Kate Atkinson’s latest novel One Good Turn is a terrific read from start to finish, a highly entertaining page-turner with cliff hanger endings to each chapter. Subtitled, “A Jolly Murder Mystery”, it is that and more, being also a crazy comedy of errors.
One Good Turn is a sort of sequel to the fabulous Case Histories, which introduced Jackson Brodie, ex cop and private detective. He was a lovable character in Case Histories so it was a pleasure to renew his acquaintance in this later novel.
He is just one of a cast of disparate characters, whose fates intertwine as the plot unfolds. There is also Gloria Hatter, wife of crooked property developer Graham, who is pleasurably anticipating widowhood; Martin Canning who writes “soft boiled” old-fashioned detective stories under the nom de plume of Alex Blake; Louise Monroe the single mum police officer; Tatiana the Russian call-girl and a host of other eccentric personages. The plot is complicated, with many twists and turns and reversals and the separate stories of the main protagonists interconnect like the Russian dolls that feature heavily throughout.
The novel is set in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival and begins with a road rage incident that has unanticipated repercussions, and links all the main characters from the start, be they witnesses, attending police officers, victims or perpetrators.
Kate Atkinson has a light touch in her writing. It is quirky, but also remarkably percipient. Atkinson gets inside the heads of her characters in a way that is comical, ironic and perceptive - they come across as oddly endearing and sympathetic.
One Good Turn is Kate Atkinson’s fifth novel, and having read all the earlier novels, I think she is going from strength to strength having taken on the detective genre.
If you want a book that is both well written and highly entertaining you can’t go past One Good Turn. I found it unputdownable and didn’t want it to finish. Light entertainment with an edge, I recommend it unreservedly.