One of my favorite reading discoveries this year has been the work of Kate Atkinson. I loved both her debut novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum and her first crime novel Case Histories. She has a wry, funny voice that can take the sentimental and the sensational and turn them into something special.
One Good Turn, which Jenny has already reviewed, is the second of her crime novels featuring former detective inspector Jackson Brodie. This time, Jackson is in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, where his girlfriend is performing in a play that looks likely to bomb. Although Jackson is retired from his crime-solving days, crime seems to be following him around because within only a few days he witnesses a road rage incident and discovers a dead body.
As much as I loved Case Histories, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t find One Good Turn to be quite as much of a success. I think that a huge part of the problem was the difference between the readers of the two audiobooks. Steven Crossley, who performed One Good Turn took on a far more serious tone than Susan Jameson did in Case Histories, and this meant that some of what I’ve come to perceive as Atkinson’s distinctive style was lost.
The other issue was that the elaborate plot, which largely—and perhaps intentionally—leans on coincidence, is not as well suited to audio as it might be to print. I kept wanting to flip back to previous chapters and confirm my memories of the different characters and their connections to one another. I never felt confused exactly, but I felt like I was missing out on the pleasure of seeing how all the pieces fit together. Case Histories also had an elaborate plot, but for most of the book, the different threads were kept separate, and it wasn’t until the final chapters that they started to come together. As a result, I didn’t feel the need to hold so much information in my head at once.
I did enjoy One Good Turn. There are some terrific bits about writing (one of the characters writes detective fiction). And the ending is flat-out fantastic. It just wasn’t quite the delight that Case Histories was. I certainly enjoyed it enough to forge ahead with the next Jackson Brodie book, When Will There Be Good News? with yet another narrator, Ellen Archer. I’m on the second disc already, and so far, I’m enjoying it very much. I’ll report back when I’m done.