Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

I could go on and on about how amazing Kate Atkinson is, but I'll spare you :) She may be my favorite living writer. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year, and is fantastic. Her first three novels all deal with family dysfunction in various ways, but Atkinson is a masterful storyteller with a gift for creating believable, rich characters, so these are not insubstantial, derivative Oprah books. Atkinson is also wickedly funny. Her short story collection, Not the End of the World, is disturbing and gripping, and despite the title, is about the end of the world. Her fourth novel, Case Histories, introduced private investigator and ex-cop Jackson Brodie, who is involved in three separate cases that aren't exactly connected, but touch each other. This was her first "hit" novel, and I wasn't sure how I felt about my favorite literary novelist turning to the detective genre. However, this isn't your grandmother's detective novel. Atkinson takes her keen insight into the human condition and applies it to the genre, rather than allowing the genre to constrict her storytelling. The relationships between the characters are satisfying and well-developed. Her latest novel, One Good Turn, brings Jackson back as one of several witnesses to a road rage incident. Atkinson takes the events of a few days and shows them from the points of view of the different characters, who are all connected in some way. I had trouble putting it down. You don't need to have read Case Histories to enjoy One Good Turn, but I highly recommend both.

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