I have only come to Kate Atkinson’s novels in the last 18 months and especially those which feature Jackson Brodie and now having completed One Good Turn I am caught up with all the Jackson Brodie novels.
Brodie, despite his good fortunes at the end of Case Histories, is back in the UK with Julia Land as she stars in a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Jackson is somewhat at a loose end, and his relationship with Julia seems to be turning in different directions and he spends a lot of time dissecting what has happened and what he wants. Whilst wandering around Edinburgh he witnesses a road rage incident and Jackson is suddenly thrust into something he did not actively set out to get involved in.
But Jackson is not the only one to witness the incident as each chapter Atkinson introduces us to other witnesses, perpetrators and victims of one event which has taken and shook many people’s lives upside down. One the face of it none of these people know of each other, they are not connected in any way but as the book progress they all become linked in some way. With the denouement perhaps coming as something as surprise for the reader and the characters.
Martin, a key witness, who threw his laptop at the perpetrators head to stop him killing the victim, suddenly finds himself in a position of responsibility looking after the victim after accompanying him to hospital. But the victim is not who he seems, and disappears from Martin’s life as quickly as he entered it. Martin is perplexed by what has happened to him, and believes that it is justice for a former crime that he committed in Russia.
Enter Tatiana, the Russian who was found with Graham Hatter, as he suffered a heart attack, meets Graham’s wife at the hospital, Gloria who also witnessed the incident, and perhaps recognises the perpetrator. Gloria’s life is changing forever as her husband Graham Hatter of Hatter Homes the business he owns is slowly crumbling as are the houses they build.
One of those houses belongs to DI Louise Monroe who first encounters Jackson when he reports a dead girl in the water who he tries to rescue but her body slips away from him, as the current and tide are too strong for him. Monroe is fascinated by Jackson, not least because he seems to turn up where he should not be and investigating when he should not. You can take the man out of the police but you cannot take the detective out of him. Atkinson really does show how Jackson is clinging onto a past, and his thoughts about how he would deal with all the events unfolding, made me smile.
This book by some is perceived as a crime novel, in fact that is just a small part of it a secondary plot if you wish. It is a character rich story, where they are all drawn together through events, that they have somehow witnessed, and with each turn of the circle, the main centre event, in this case the road rage incident, focuses on another witness, another character in Atkinson’s rich imagination.
A good follow-up book to Case Histories, it really brings Jackson Brodie even more to life as you are drawn into the world where things just seem to happen to him and with one good turn, there is invariably a couple of bad ones coming up behind!
I have read two Kate Atkinson books in quick succession, mainly because I wanted to be one step ahead of the TV adaptation and see how well they compared. I thought I was not going to finish this one in time, and I invariably do not like putting myself under pressure in reading. However, I really got hooked by it and spent a very pleasant Saturday finishing it with great satisfaction! As this is posted, the TV adaptation will be starting its second episode and I hope that it lives up to the first and stays as faithful to the book as it can be when trying to bring to life an Atkinson book.
I am now all up to date with Jackson Brodie, though I feel I might need to do a quick refresh on the next two books, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early,Took My Dog. Not for their story lines but for all the interaction with Jackson as I feel the first two books give a lot of background to him, which the later books do not simply regurgitate to bring the reader up to date, (something which I hate), but hint at, making you want to go and find out more! Although I hope there will be more Jackson Brodie at some point.
I still have some more of Kate Atkinson’s back catalogue to go through, though perhaps this time not putting myself under pressure to read them.