Jackson Brodie, retired from the private investigation business after a client leaves him her millions, has spent the last two years living a life of ease in France. In Edinburgh for his girlfriend Julia’s performance in a Fringe Festival play, Jackson ends up a reluctant witness to a rear-end collision cum road rage incident. As a chain of events is set in motion, a number of the bystanders’ paths begin to intersect with Jackson: the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon; a timid but successful crime novelist; and a hardheaded female police detective.
As the other bystanders begin experiencing unexpected consequences from witnessing the accident, Jackson is attacked by the Honda driver and then charged for defending himself. Suddenly Jackson must figure out what is going on if he wants to keep out of jail, and have time to figure out why Julia is acting weird.
After years of writing award-winning literary novels, Atkinson scored a breakout hit with Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery genre. In One Good Turn, Jackson Brodie returns and faces a puzzling mystery that unfolds over four days. Atkinson doesn’t write straightforward mysteries with a central crime that must be solved; rather, she presents details and events that are slowly woven together to create an emerging image. Certainly the reader can guess at what is emerging; however, Atkinson possesses a master’s skill and readers may be unaware at how effectively they are being manipulated.
To avoid any spoilers, little can be said about the plot of One Good Turn. As always, Atkinson creates characters so real that it wouldn’t be surprising to find them striding off the page. One Good Turn features some truly irritating characters, shallow to the extreme.
The sign of a good writer is one who can emotionally engage the reader in the created world. Atkinson is a literary writer, renown for her ability to create character studies and here she uses irritation to engage her readers. Some of the characters are so banal, passive and frustrating that the reader almost wishes violence upon them. And with that realization, readers are forced to face their own inner evil and propensity to violence, as the characters are within One Good Turn.