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review 2020-06-24 16:48
One Good Turn
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson

I don't know if I liked this book or was appalled by it. A little bit of both.


This was a confusing mishmash of characters and the book takes forever to get going.


Jackson and Julia are toxic as anything. There's a scene we get via Jackson and we learn about him and Julia and I just wanted to scream and drop the book right there. Also I don't even know what to say about Jackson. Or we supposed to feel sorry for him due to his sister or brother? Cause he sucks a lot I realized. And he really didn't investigate much in this one, just had remarkable coincidences happening. 


Louise (inspector) was more interesting than Jackson and her interest in him didn't even seem believable. 


Good lord, Martin. I just....I am going to need to sit and think on him a bit.


Gloria is also as terrible as her husband Graham I have to say. I just think it's hilarious she doesn't realize it. Or maybe she does when you get to that ending. 


The writing was eh and the flow was so bad that I started to just want something to happen. And then there's just plot holes left unaddressed by the end of this book.


I needed a yarn wall at the 60 percent mark because seeing how everything and everyone was linked was a lot and I started to think the whole thing was just ridiculous after a while. 

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review 2017-08-13 05:02
Many-Layered Mystery
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson

Though he makes his living writing crime novels, Martin Canning is a shy, gentle man. But when he witnesses a road rage incident at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he steps in to save a stranger from being beaten to death. The story begins in the point of view of the beaten man, and he does something for hire that’s on the shady side of the law, though the reader knows not what. The book also ends in his POV in a neat frame for the narrative, with a twist that ties up his role and reveals his trade, but also opens up a whole new set of questions as to who was chasing whom from the beginning.


Martin’s one good turn takes him into a labyrinth of troubles. Other witnesses to the same incident become the other major players in the story. The plot weaves their stories together, using all of their points of view. The incident is like an impact point of a meteor crash and or the center of a starburst pattern, and it’s also like the outer doll in the Russian nesting dolls that are a repeating image throughout the book. Each of these witnesses is a fascinating character drawn with depth and humor, especially Gloria, the resourceful and disillusioned wife of a corrupt tycoon. Jackson Brodie is sort of a part-time protagonist; it’s not uniquely his story. And it’s not a conventional murder mystery. The nested dolls of time and memory are part of the unusual structure. Sometimes this flashback technique works and sometimes it doesn’t. As Jackson muses on his relationship’s past joys and present difficulties, it works. When he thinks at length about the swimming pool at his house in France while trying to haul a dead body out of the sea at risk to his life, it’s not only implausible but kills the scene with loss of continuity and tension. As Gloria’s memories are gradually revealed, it seems contrived, because she’s not discovering insights. Although she encounters many new externals, as far as her internals go, she’s known all along exactly what drives her. The challenge for a writer using so many points of view is to keep secrets from the reader without making the reader aware of the author withholding information that is known to the POV character. Martin’s recollection of his trip to Russia is parceled out bit by bit, as if it were a new story in the background, a narrative with installments embedded into his ongoing experiences. Is it even a flashback? Realistically, it seems that every time something reminds him of the worst part of that trip, he would think directly about the specific event, not build up to it in a reconstruction of the entire journey. His fantasy life, however, is a wonderful creation, a revelation of his character, his self-image, and his psychological evolution.


There are two murders, but the instigating event is not the murder, and the plot doesn’t turn on finding out whodunit. There are layers of motives and connections to puzzle out, but it’s pretty obvious, after a while, who the killer is. That’s not a weakness in the story, in my opinion (though there are others).


The role of Tatiana, the Russian woman is ambiguous, and figuring her out might take a full rereading. I’m left wondering if the author knew everything this character was up to behind the scenes and thought the reader would get it, or if she simply found it convenient to have a character who remains mysterious, her actions and knowledge and connections not fully revealed. This is the second time I’ve read a book by this author that made me think she wrapped up loose ends offstage because she either ran out of space in her projected word count, didn’t have a solid solution and wanted to hide it, or wanted to leave the reader trying to figure out a lot she didn’t put in the story.


The endings of all the personal-life subplots are given the right degree of partial closure. There are implications of what could happen for Martin, for Jackson, for Gloria, and others, though no certainties. Again, Atkinson delivers characters who carry the story, brilliant writing, natural humor, and a complex but vaguely unsatisfactory plot. Once again, five-star characters, setting, and language and three-star story-telling and plot=four stars.


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review 2015-05-21 00:00
One Good Turn
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson 54. ONE GOOD TURN, BY KATE ATKINSON (Book 2 of Jackson Brodie)

The second book in the Jackson Brodie series; I liked the first one and I’m allowed to read up to the third one this year (and I will, I’m a sucker for series).

Synopsis: Jackson is in Edinburgh for a Festival where his girlfriend, Julia, is working. He stumbles upon a case of road rage, a dead body in the water, a cozy mystery writer, shady business involving housing and prostitution. He tries to untangle those with the help of Lousie, an Edinburgh police officer.

Overall enjoyment: It was OK. Nice to read, and all that, but not particularly good or striking. A nice way to spend a couple of hours at the DMV while waiting to be seen.

Plot: There was so much stuff happening, it kinda felt like she was trying to distract us from the fact that the plot was a bit shambolic. Plus, she relies on luck and accident as a plot device way more than she should.

Characters: I think they are her strong suit. She has a way of showing their whims that can make me laugh out loud. They seem to be all middle-aged, and I suppose I would appreciate someone closer to my own age, but I really don’t feel like it’s within my rights to demand that from her.

World/setting: Except for the finding of the body, it has no great effect on the story.

Writing style: She loves to include the characters’ thoughts into the narration, without indicating when that happens. I have nothing against that in principle, but it gets tiring after a while. It feels like she’s dumping the characterization on the reader’s lap without bothering to show it with action.

Representation: Quite poor.

Political correctness: Nothing very positive, but nothing too negative, either.

Up next: Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell
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review 2013-11-14 19:36
One Good Turn
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson

bookshelves: autumn-2013, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, published-2006, series, bedside, handbag-read

Read from September 07 to 18, 2013


One penny wonder, Lavenham

My cover has a decapitated green and white tour bus rolling along Princes Street, where the blurred backdrop is the castle.
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review 2013-10-20 16:19
One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn requires your attention. Jackson Brodie, the retired policeman, retired detective, does one good thing. He offers help to Martin Canning, who has helped a man who is a victim of road rage. This is the straightforward, easy part. 

From here, the novel becomes four or six or eight threads which weave in and almost as deftly as Brodie does through Atkinson's "mystery novels." I use the quotes because the mystery is not as fascinating as the intricate threads. 
Her novels are not for those who read distractedly. 

She reminds me of Fay Wheldon. There's a funny sneer of institutions, yet she isn't quite as outlandish.

Jackson says "a coincidence is just an explanation is just waiting to happen." I guess that sums up most mystery novels. Atkinson's seem to be more, because she writes them so well.

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