Case Histories is a good detective novel, but One Good Turn is a good novel. In Histories, I could find evidence of the distinctive Kate Atkinson style of Not the End of the World and Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but only in bursts. Well, that novelist—with her unique way of conflating images and scenes, her shuffling of time and narratives, her obvious enjoyment of language—is evident everywhere in Turn.
Perhaps Atkinson felt that she needed to tamp down her creative side a bit as she tried to fit her first Jackson Brodie story into the detective genre. With her second Brodie offering, she’s thrown off those constraints of genre—she’s more “herself” in the plotting, characterization, imagery, and language.
What I especially found interesting is how—almost until the very end of the book—I felt as if I was still heading uphill, into new territory within the story. Atkinson keeps adding twists. And then—once she’s got all these plates and oranges and balls up in the air—she manages a marvelous climax, where many of the characters are sucked into the Hatter living room: the baseball-bat-wielding villain, the wimpy crime writer, the mysterious Russian, the red-veloured lady of the house, the lady with the peach hair on the peach sofa, and, of course, Jackson. What a scene.
And having just watched the episode on Masterpiece Mystery, I can tell you: while the television version is fine, the book’s much better—throughout and most particularly at this scene.