Saturday, 16 July 2011

Book #64 One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn 

If you have not read Case Histories, then this post contains spoilers.

I'm going to be frank and say from the off that One Good Turn was a disappointment. It isn't that the recent TV adaptation diverged from it (not much, but enough) but that largely it lacks much plausibility.

Our hero Jackson Brodie an ex soldier, ex cop and now ex private detective is living off his inheritance in France. He travels to Edinburgh to see his former client and now girlfriend Julia Land in a play of dubious quality at the Fringe.

This novels mystery surrounds Graham Hatter an outwardly respectable privately unscrupulous builder of houses similar to Redrow or Barratt. He arrives in A and E with a Russian dominatrix little to his wife's surprise.

Marty Canning, a weak dissatisfied writer whose life is dull and without excitement, is involved in a violent incident in a car park, this leads to his name becoming attached to a series of crimes, in a way that is all very unlikely.

Jackson Brodie, whilst out sightseeing finds a dead Russian girl in the water. Somehow all these people are connected, but how?

And this is essentially the issue. They are all connected or all end up connected, Jackson Brodie and Marty through the carpark incident, the Russian girls to Graham Hatter, employees of Hatter to incidents which befall both Brodie and Canning. It's just too many coincidences and too implausible.

Jackson, no longer a private eye has no reason to be where he is most of the time and even new heroine Louise Munroe tells him he's "becoming a professional witness". It's not just unlikely that he would become embroiled in all these events it's borderline impossible, statistically. It just made me roll my eyes a bit.

I hope it isn't too spoilery to say there is a crime scene near the end; but the fact that not one, not two, but three witnesses are able to walk from said crime scene without police intervention beggars total belief. I understand now why the BBC adaptation made the changes it did and consider them an improvement in terms of believability.

I now feel more certain in my belief that Atkinson or at least her publisher, regretted retiring Jackson Brodie in Case Histories. He remains charismatic, loveable and with plenty of creative mileage as a character. But, in bringing him back in such a way, without rank or reason to be involved doesn't hold water. Because Brodie admits he feels unmanned by his new elevated station in life, it would have made more sense for him to first return from France, re-establish his agency and go from there.

I will read the next two novels When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, but this will be because I like Jackson Brodie as a character; not because this novel which is ultimately disappointing and weak has induced me to do so. 6/10

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