ONE GOOD TURN Kate Atkinson
I haven’t read too many detective/mystery novels of late, alas, because I’ve been chasing after what they call “literary fiction”, but Kate Atkinson’s new novel was a splendid way of combining the two. Which isn’t surprising, come to think of it, because she’s done the same with her earlier Case Histories.
One Good Turn begins with an incident of road rage in Edinburgh at the start of the Fringe Festival and then moves on from character to character, teasing out the concatenation of circumstances that links them together. Among others, there’s retired police investigator Jackson Brodie (from Case Histories), pondering over his relationship with his actress-companion; the retiring mystery novelist haunted by the spectre of his past; the wife of a real-estate racketeer seeking a new start; and the police officer agonising over the right way to bring up her teenage child. Oh, and there’s more than one body, of course.
Structurally inventive, with prose that’s droll and incisive, One Good Turn takes its time in revealing hidden connections: “boxes within boxes, dolls within dolls, worlds within worlds”. (Russian dolls are, in fact, significant in more ways than one.) Yes, there are more than a few convenient coincidences, and the constantly shifting points of view won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s all very skillfully done, with a nasty little twist in the tale.
Worth your while? Clever, well-written crime fiction. Bring on the rain.