Sunday, 21 October 2012

Loss of loss

As was implied by yesterday's rather short review, and doubtless confirmed by this similarly short one, my pile of books that have been read but not cogitated has grown again. Olympics, holidays, but mostly laziness can be drafted in to serve as excuses, but the bedside table needs to have space for my glasses, so here I am again. Today's hasty summary is for Kate Atkinson's 2006 crime novel One Good Turn, a sequel to her earlier career-direction-change novel, Case Histories (which I was a big fan of).

As with its predecessor, this novel is centred around the character of ex-army sergeant, ex-police officer Jackson Brodie, now also adding ex-private detective to his growing c.v. Finding himself in Edinburgh during the Fringe on account of his girlfriend's sporadic acting career, it isn't long before trouble - of the criminal variety - finds Jackson. When he intervenes in a seeming road rage incident (one good turn ...), it's not long before he's drawn into a chain reaction of murkily-connected events. His fellow passengers include Martin Canning, a successful but troubled crime writer; Gloria Hatter, the millionaire wife of a crooked property developer; and Louise Monroe, a local detective sergeant who finds herself bumping into Brodie suspiciously frequently. Plus an entourage that includes a violent fixer, a pair of seeming Russian twins, and a mild-mannered man who has a military-issue gun for some reason.

The funny thing about this novel is that is has almost everything that made its precursor such a memorable book. Funnier (not "ha ha") is that though it's missing what I think elevated Case Histories above its genre trappings, namely its deep consideration of the human cost of loss, it still works perfectly well, and is still a very enjoyable and satisfying read. This omission certainly makes it a far less complete novel, indeed it makes it difficult to separate this novel from the crowded background of other crime tomes, but I was still almost wholly pleased with my time spent with the wry Mr. Brodie. Atkinson has made one thematic addition that somewhat raises One Good Turn from much of the genre, namely some very clever self-awareness about the crime genre, worked in via the successful but hollow writer, Martin. However, I'd still rather have had deeper themes to ponder (though I am a sucker for such post-modernism).

Still, notwithstanding the foregoing, I will definitely be returning to Ms. Atkinson in the near future. Even shorn of her literary sensibilities, she's still eminently worth reading.

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