It begins with a queue for a comedy performance at the Edinburgh festival. A festival celebrant steps out in front of a car driving past the queue, the driver of the car slams on his brakes and just misses the fellow but the car behind him slams into his vehicle. There are also three or four other characters in the novel who are in the queue for the comedy act. So now we have all these streamers of lives floating in the Edinburgh breezes, and with her typical brilliance, Ms Atkinson pulls them all together until, at the end, all of the connections become clear to the characters in the book, and to us, the readers.
Kate Atkinson continues her Jackson Brodie crime fiction series in her own original style of indepth characterisation, case studies if you will, and with plentiful doses of wit and humour.
i'm the person who will willingly give up sleep, food, social interaction and general human-like activities to read a good book. things were made needlessly complicated with too many characters, and behind the sheen of the mystery, there was a distinct lack of sincerity in this book that i found in case histories and really missed here.
This is the second novel in the series of which ex-soldier, ex-police officer and newly wealthy ex-private detective Jackson Brodie is the chief protagonist. The image is particularly appropriate to describe the way in which the various strands of the plot come together and like Matryoska dolls, Atkinson's characters are intricate and colourful.
Well, partly through that self-reference, that nod to the fictionality of what she's doing, and partly by caring enough about the individuals who people her tales to give them a truly authentic back story, and to spend some time on creating it.
I remember a scolding from one of my high school English teachers to the effect that my classmates and I should only read books that made us better people and stop wasting our time with the other stuff. The plots ramble all over the place and rely on coincidence and irony too much by half, but I have such a good time with the reading that I don't care.
ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson begins with a road rage incident involving one crazy guy beating a man with a baseball bat and another man, a wimpy writer of popular crime novels, knocking the crazy guy down with his laptop computer. My guess is that Atkinson had a pretty good short story.
(Possibly, it is rather better writing than the Tana French book I just finished; at least nobody is described as having "hidden levels" in their "X-box game he calls a brain." Left that bit out of my last review, didn't I. You'll think, "I think I'm supposed to be surprised that these two people know each other, but I don't even remember who this second person was the first time." There are at least foooour major povs? It would have been a good book if we actually learned anything about her. Talk of his (unseen) daughter and a rehash of his family pain -- exactly the same information we knew from reading his first book -- is all that makes him sympathetic, and that isn't okay. These people, they are supposed to be getting us deeper in this twisty interconnected plot noodle thing, but actually they don't! The author essentially sets each chapter to wander through the thoughts of all of these people she's created, stream of consciousness less like the good literary kind that reveals existentialist dread and more like someone's really boring diary entry about frozen dinners. Did she write this book on vacation? This book, though technically a mystery, does not put two clues on one page (thus making us care about making any plot connections whatsoever) until page 290. You're supposed to make SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS HAPPEN. Making people we're not supposed to like reported as unattractive. Too bad that is the same sophisticated device that makes Barbie dolls a thing. I will, however, read the third book eventually. It has, perhaps, the same structural weaknesses as this book, but just a little fractured weakness and not an all-out house-falling-to-pieces waste-of-time disaster. Just a good book.
For me to disclose one of those two concealed events would be a spoiler, but the other (the existence of a third backed-up copy of a character's novel) seemed to serve no purpose.
Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.