three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
26-Jan-Feb-2007
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0

A-One Good TurnDetective Jackson Brodie (last seen in Kate Atkinson’s critically acclaimed Case Histories, 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2005, where he came into some money) is whiling away his retirement in the French countryside, occasionally entertaining his girlfriend (and former client) Julia. When he follows Julia to Edinburgh to attend the international Fringe Festival, he witnesses a man nearly beaten to death on the side of the road. The other onlookers—a timid novelist, the wife of a real estate tycoon, a sexy police inspector, and assorted thugs—soon become very involved in the detective’s formerly peaceful (if boring) existence. Coincidence? Definitely not.
Little, Brown. 418 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316154849

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"In One Good Turn, her second thriller and sixth book, the deft and tricky British author Kate Atkinson shows again, in her inimitable bleakly funny way, how much easier it is to explain a death than to solve a life." Liesl Schillinger

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Atkinson’s bright voice rings on every page, and her sly and wry observations move the plot as swiftly as suspense turns the pages of a thriller. … The novel’s ending, though, seems too tidy. The temptation to punish the wicked and ill-mannered and empower the put-upon is great, and Atkinson surrenders to it." Dana Kletter

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Since Ms. Atkinson is not strictly a mystery writer, and since she relishes the process of developing this assortment of characters, One Good Turn does some dawdling. Too much perhaps. … Midway through, the plotting starts to click, and Ms. Atkinson is ready to let the ‘aha!’ moments take over." Janet Maslin

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"One Good Turn is a remarkable feat of storytelling bravado, though this is a quality that eventually works against the novel." Stephen Amidon

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"Atkinson is a restrained, perceptive writer skilled at telling stories from multiple and hugely diverse points of view. … It’s not spectacular, and it may lack the bite of Case Histories, but One Good Turn still is compelling and always entertaining as the gruff Brodie tries to make sense of a series of unfortunate events." Donna Freydkin

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"In One Good Turn, Atkinson retains her always alluring style, but her vision has shrunk rather than expanded. That, I am sorry to see." Jane Smiley

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"Despite the abundance of characters and actions—some mysterious Russians and a disappearing corpse—One Good Turn fails to capture the reader’s attention or affection." Michele Ross

Critical Summary

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.

Also by the Author

Case Histories (2004): PI Jackson Brodie finds his hands full when he starts to investigate three crimes that occurred in the 1970s around London. Brodie has his own tortured past, and the cases he is working address how fate divides and reunites families and how our painful yet comedic condition leads us on an endless search for closure.