The author of One Good Turn presents a mystery of suspense involving the unexpected intersection of three lives, including a woman whose life had been shattered thirty years earlier, an ex-detective on a crowded train, and a teenage girl who is called upon to test her preparedness.
Joanna Hunter seems to have it all: she's a successful doctor and mother of a darling baby boy. But thirty years ago Joanna's life was dramatically changed by tragedy: her mother, sister, and brother were all killed in a random act of violence. Joanna appears to have left those emotional scars behind, or at least covered them up really well. Reggie Chase works for Joanna as a mother's helper. She is sixteen and forced to leave school and live on her own after her mother's recent death. Reggie has seen some hard times, but has a keen wit and a love of learning that keep her going. She admires Joanna, and is also somewhat attached to her former teacher, Ms. MacDonald, who is tutoring Reggie for her A-levels. When Joanna disappears and her husband offers a weak explanation, Reggie is sure there's trouble afoot. She follows up on a chance encounter with Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, and gets her involved in finding Joanna.
Meanwhile in a parallel story, Jackson Brodie is just going about his business, traveling from London to Edinburgh. A harrowing event brings him into contact with Reggie, and then with Louise, who it turns out is an old friend. The problem is, several people think Jackson is someone else, and the person they think he is may have stolen Jackson's identity as well. And all Jackson wants to do is make it home before his wife returns from a business trip and finds him missing. But first there's the matter of Joanna Hunter that now requires his attention, too.
There's so much about the story that I can't say, because every thread is so tightly wound with all the others and I don't want to ruin it with even the tiniest spoiler. But was with Case Histories and One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson has written a compelling mystery with some major surprises, and a delightful dose of humor expressed primarily through the thoughts and actions of her well-drawn characters. I enjoyed this book from start to finish.
This book may just be my favorite so far in the Jackson Brodie series. Until I read the next one anyway.
A killer who has been in jail for the last thirty years is released, his debt to society paid. His crime was that he killed a mother and two of her three children. That surviving child is now a practicing physician with a child of her own. Should she be living in fear of this murderer who changed her life completely? And how will Jackson Brodie be dragged into this case because, even though it doesn't seem as though he will you know....Oh yeah, you know Atkinson will take you around the bend, and up the block, and under the hedge, and over the hill until finally, there he is, in the middle of it.
But don't take my word for it. Go ahead, dip into a little Atkinson yourself. You won't regret it.
Atkinson seems particularly averse to depicting men in an unreservedly positive manner, but in fairness most of the women don’t fare particularly well either. Parenthetic observation: In an interview with Nancy Pearl Atkinson said she doesn’t understand men so she wrote Jackson as a woman. Yet Jackson’s actions and motivations are completely consistent with those of most men I know. Men and women are just not that different in many important respects.
Thank goodness for Reggie, the 16-year-old girl whose mother died, leaving her alone in the world with a delinquent older brother. Not only is she seemingly the only healthy person in Atkinson’s universe, she is genuinely likeable, competent, and resourceful.
This is the third Atkinson novel including Jackson Brodie. I can’t say it “features” him as he receives much less attention than some of the other characters. As in the earlier novels in this series, the emphasis is on character development and it is there that Atkinson excels. Page after page reveals additional quirks, attitudes, experiences, and thoughts of the characters with very little attention given to plot. Some of the characters like Reggie are genuinely appealing while Atkinson’s treatment of others like Brodie-who gets lost because he forgot to take his map, can’t get around a sheep in the road, then gets on a train going the wrong direction-is irritating. “Why was he always in the wrong place at the wrong time?” succinctly states Atkinson’s view of Brodie.
A plot does begin to appear about page 60 in “When …,” but there is certainly no hurry to give it form and substance. The story kicks into high gear when Brodie, Louise, Jackson, and Reggie wind up in the same car. Louise and Jackson play the part of the quarreling children with Reggie as the adult. Genuinely funny! Yet like so many books I have read recently, Atkinson feels a need to tie up all the secondary and tertiary plot lines after the climax.
“When …” is interesting throughout and captivatingly “can’t put down” when Louise, Jackson and Reggie join forces. She crafts a genuinely surprising resolution to the case of the missing woman, and Brodie is in for a major surprise himself.
I typed the above as I was starting this one. How did it take me so long to find Kate Atkinson? Her character development is just outstanding without boring me, even down to the description of clothes as it relates in this case to Reggie a very unusual 16 year old.
The immediate capture of your attention starts at least on page two. You are back a few decades reliving a crime that will come back into play in present time while encircling so many other characters. Know the mystery that you intently read and POP there's that pop of humor you didn't expect that has you laughing out loud and then oh quickly back to the details and the story? Know that book that leaves you visualing each character, that if you passed them on the walk you'd certainly recognize them? Oh and that male character that's rough shod, smart and ever so desirable? Yes, each of these is how I "live in" When Will There Be Good News. Yes, yes, I'll admit I do find myself missing the most desirable Jackson Brodie, isn't he reason enough to try the Kate Atkinson series? = ) Indeed! 4*
When Joanna Mason was six, she obeyed her mother and lived while all the rest of them died. Thirty years later, Jackson Brodie is on a crowded train that's running late when he hears a horrible sound. Sixteen-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little television at the end of a long day, but her peaceful evening is shattered. Luckily Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for emergencies.
Once again Kate Atkinson has created three living, breathing characters with absolutely nothing in common and then brought them together in such a way that you can't take your eyes off the page. From the very first Jackson Brodie book (Case Histories), I learned that Atkinson is a master plot weaver and a master at creating characters that you come to know better than you know yourself.
Jackson Brodie is in one of his usual muddles and finds himself in Scotland where Joanna Mason now lives as an adult with her husband and infant son. Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is a law unto herself and wouldn't be able to stay out of this book if her life depended on it. You see, she cares for Brodie even though she won't admit it.
To the mix of Brodie, Mason and Monroe add a sixteen-year-old who's an "unstoppable force of nature" and more than fierce enough to resemble a "Jack Russell fending off a pack of Dobermans." Young Reggie is the catalyst in this book, and she's a treasure. She single-handedly gets all the adults moving because she refuses to turn her back when she knows something is wrong. No one's ever been able to make Reggie understand that kids can't get results when they put their minds to it. (I'd love to see her as an adult!)
Each character takes a turn at telling us their side of the story, and it's the stream-of-consciousness story telling that allows us to get so far into each character's mind. Getting to know these wonderful characters almost makes the intricately woven plot surplus to requirements... almost. For, without the plot, Brodie and Louise and Joanna and Reggie wouldn't be able to meet and try to get everything put to rights again.
Reading one of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books is an experience to be savored. Her various plot threads and characters that slowly move together may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it's yours, please don't miss the pleasure of reading these excellent books.
Reggie's character is what set the book apart for me. Reggie is a survivor. She's streetwise, bright, and ambitious, and she finds ways to make herself indispensable to the few people she cares about. I loved Reggie's interaction with Brodie. She's several years older than Brodie's daughter, and the dynamic of their relationship suggests what Jackson's relationship with his daughter could become down the road. One feature of this series is the reappearance of characters from earlier novels. I hope Reggie is one of the characters who will show up again.
“A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.” it’s unclear how story lines and major characters are going to intersect. It’s normal in mysteries to not know who the bad guy is, but to not even know why the novelist is focusing on the characters she is—well, that takes the “mystery” term to a whole different level… and that’s what Atkinson does, taking this genre to a new high.
This is absolutely harrowing in the relentlessness of bad news (the title turns out to be very appropriate) but exquisitely written. The mix of characters is almost unbelievable, and yet they slot together into the machinery of the novel's plot seamlessly. Reggie and Joanna are beautifully written - both pretty disturbed, but trying to make the best of a bad world.
I loved the portrayal of Edinburgh, with its dark streets and contrast between its affluent and impoverished areas. The extraneous components scattered into the plot (for example, the Bangladeshi corner shop owner and his family) add depth and weight to the scene-setting.
Her latest book, When Will There Be Good News? imagines a world where Joanna Hunter (in the now) is re-visited by the horror of her past, her family (mother and siblings) brutally killed when she was six in front of her. Thirty years later, the killer is paroled and Joanna suddenly disappears. The question then becomes, is Joanna Hunter the innocent she has portrayed after all these years?
This is the third book by Atkinson that features Jackson Brodie, a character she created in Case Histories, who has re-appeared in her previous book, One Good Turn. Ex-solider, ex-policeman, Brodie is now a retired millionaire whose own faults seemingly are also his weaknesses. Brodie, who this time around plays a subtle minor character in the drama as it unfolds, seemingly is one step away from the realities that surround him. What he desires and wants, is what we all desire and want an yet for Brodie, everything is almost out of reach.
As with her other books, Atkinson has a gift for sly observation and reporting on and grasping the intricies of the human condition that so many of us either can't grasp or want to forget. When Will There Be Good News? is a taut novel but this is the first of her books I have found to be a little bit more messy in the wrapping up of the plot. Things happen, and to Joanna Hunter, Reggie Chase and Jackson Brodie, they seemingly happen for a reason. We root for them in ways we cannot think we would, and we excuse them of their flaws but it is in their flaws (Brodie's and Hunter's) that seemingly were a little too gapping to make believable.
But in Atkinson's own problems with the writing, it is also her greatest strengths. Atkinson's books are not "skimming" books, you really do have to pay attention as she will throw out a word or a line of dialog that suddenly makes some prior related instances, much more sense. Once she throws that word or line out, it will not be repeated or revisited. Miss that key, and the book will not be as good as you think it could be.
I adore her plot twists and devices as it makes her books wholly full filling. I love the fact that everytime I finish one of her books, I can revsit it at another date and find something new that I missed the first time. I adore the fact that she asks questions that may not always have the easiest answers and her answers (and questions) are not presumptious or overworked.
Pick up any of Atkinson's works and you will not be disappointed -- she's not as well known in the States as she is in the U.K., but while this is not her strongest book, this will hopefully push her over the edge.
This is a difficult book to review as in some respects it was quite a fun who-done-it but at the same time the endless catalogue of disasters was a bit much to digest. What really reduced the star rating for me, however, were the constant interjections and side comments that felt as if the author was constantly interrupting herself.
Joanna Hunter is a loving mother who employs Reggie Chase to look after her small baby while she works. Reggie adopts them as her family and is desperate to find them when they mysteriously disappear. Many twists and turns (and disasters) later, the multiple story lines come together, often in quite unexpected ways. Cleverly resolved, I found myself working back through all the twists when I'd finished.
Good: Plot lines and twists with several excellent characters.
Bad: Too many disasters and constant interruptions.
This is my third Kate Atkinson read and I'll probably read more by this author but I certainly didn't think it was the best of this season's Richard & Judy choices.
Your Tags: who-done-it
I bought this book on a Saturday in the city, started reading it on the way home and finished it on Monday. The back cover says, "Unputdownable." I don't think that is a real word, and I did put it down, I do have to at least look like I am working when I am at my job. Strong character development, intriguing story line, even the back and forth relating of events, the same events from one point of view than another was not confusing and served to capture my interest. The book is labeled Crime Fiction but it is not a mystery in the true sense of the word, it is more about how crime effects us, the decisions we make and the people we become when we grow up.
I recommend this book.
Most of the main characters have experienced tragedy in their lives: ex-cop Jackson Brodie's sister died by murder and his brother by suicide; teen-aged Reggie lost her mother in a bizarre drowning; Johanna Hunter survived the massacre of her mother and two siblings (survivor guilt runs rampant in this novel). Police detective Louise Monroe, trapped in a lackluster marriage and in her own sour defensiveness, is obsessed with a woman who escaped murder at the hands of her husband, and also wants to warn Johanna that the murderer of her family is scheduled to be released from prison. All these stories come together after a devasting train wreck.
Despite the complicated structure, this is a suspenseful page-turner, with interesting and believable characters.
I especially liked Reggie, an endearing, annoying Harriet the Spy type whose grief over her mother and affection for Joanna colors everything she does. She is relentless and focused when the adults around her are wallowing in their own stuff.
Okay, so she's messed with the rules of nature, but I like the way she's done it. Very much.
First, this is a crime story. The novel begins with an event so shocking, so apparently reminiscent of an equally shocking true-life English murder, that it stuns the reader with no warning. And yet, this event is - from the story's perspective - in "past time", and it is not the solving of it as a case that forms the basis of the novel, but its ramifications reverberating through the next generation. This, of course, is Atkinson's great strength, that she can take an established genre and yet make it entirely her own, succeeding on every level as she goes.
The book is full of characters, beautifully drawn and eccentrically real : Jackson Brodie, her private investigator (retired), with a history of failed relationships; orphan Reggie, a gifted child-woman ("I'm NOT twelve, I'm sixteen! Can I help it if I look young?") with a dysfunctional brother, a classical education, and a stubborn refusal to let 'sleeping dogs lie' - quite literally; Louise, a policewoman with an obsession involving cases where women have survived attempted murder; Joanna Hunter, a doctor who dotes on her baby and her dog, with a mysterious past, and a husband who seems to have a less than straight business.
These characters start the novel apparently all walking their separate paths, but it soon enough becomes clear that their lives are interwoven. It takes another shocking event to bring them all (sometimes unknowingly) together, an event that at first seems dramatically over-the-top, but which soon emerges as the novel's central plot device, around which the characters encounter each other, from which mistaken identities arise, and through which the events unfold which lead to the novel's dramatic conclusion.
This is a tour-de-force. It does not seek to turn the crime thriller genre on its head, yet in its own brilliance, it does so. Character and psychology displace methodology and dogged detective work; and as ever with Atkinson's work, the reverberation of events through time provide a vivid tapestry upon which the 'smaller warp and weft' of daily life, and the unfolding of personality, take place. As for the conventions of the genre, most loose ends are tied, leaving one or two open for exploration in (one hopes, passionately) the next novel in this series.
(Footnote : for those who like a good "whodunnit", Agatha Christie-style, who prefer their genres more formulaic and less unpredictable, this novel MAY not be for you. It is first and foremost a literary novel, not a genre novel.)
These threads move in channels, each character has information that the others don't, including Brodie who had information that he didn't know he had due to memory loss. Of course, if Poirot had had all the clues that Atkinson scatters around her characters, the various crimes would have been solved in half a book.
As it is, we are left urging them all just to talk to each other, to the extent that two thirds of the way through the book, I found myself thinking that nothing was happening because the none of the clues were were understood, and then realised that actually there had been a kidnapping, a train crash, a dead old lady, an arson attack and murdered policeman just in the last few chapters.
Three more people die, the kidnapped woman and baby escape, Jackson Brodie regains his memory and the last wife, which we think may be an illusion, turns out to be a real fake person who steals all his money, until some more money turns up from France, and he may have a baby by Julia whose sister Amelia is ruthlessly killed off. Phew, and that's only a fraction of it.
I love the fact that this works as crime fiction, is laugh out loud funny, and that all the characters are tied to each other in the most improbable series of co-incidences.
I have just started "Left Early Took My Dog".
This was a much stronger piece of work - in every way - than One Good Turn. Serves me right for prejudging the book. What seems to be Atkinson's now-signature mystery structure - i.e. expressing the narrative from different characters' points of view - works quite well throughout (almost) the entire book, and I couldn't see the twist coming.
The only tiny nit I would pick is that there were a lot of quotes. From Shakespeare, from poems, from nursery rhymes, from ancient philosophers. All the major characters quoted. A lot. If I were better-educated, or more erudite, I might appreciate it more, because I think Atkinson was going for a unifying characteristic. As it is, however, it comes across as a bit the wrong side of pretentious and could stand to be toned down. All in all, though, four-and-a-half stars.
Reggie is the nanny for Dr. Hunter. Reggie and Dr. Hunter have a really good relationship, so when one day Dr. Hunter disappears, Reggie worries but it seems that Reggie is the only one that is concerned about Dr. Hunter.
Then there is Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe, she is on a mission to locate a missing person. Louise Monroe did not expect to see Jackson Brodie, a longtime friend. It seems Jackson Brodie has a mission of his own to accomplish. Before he can complete it, Brodie has a fatal accident.
There was a good connection with the characters, which helped me to stay interested in this book till the end. When Will There Be Good News? is the third book in this series to feature Jackson Brodie. I have to admit that When Will There Be Good News? is the first book Jackson Brodie book I have read. I thought it was a well-written novel. This story can also be read as a stand alone book. Kate Atkinson added some nice twists in the story line at just the right times. This story had a lot of depth in it. The lesson learned was that you may have made many mistakes in your life but when you are handed a second chance in live it is about how you make the most of it that really counts. For anyone who is looking for a change of pace in their everyday typical reading should give Kate Atkinson a try.
Besides Brodie, in this story we meet Dr. Hunter, a woman who lived through the greatest horror one could at only six years old, and her family - 'the baby' and her rather clueless husband. Detective Louise Monroe, an unhappily married newlywed, who has a history with Jackson. The Needler family, in which ex-husband David is stalking his ex-wife and children. A murderer, who has recently been released from jail. And last but not least, certainly not least, Miss Reggie Chase, nanny to Dr Hunter's baby, a 16 year old that looks 12, she is bookishly brilliant, but streetwise as well. She has formed a bond with Dr. Hunter and her son that will save them all. Reggie Chase is the best drawn character I've met in literature in ages. She is brave, strong, persistent, clever, and wise and she steals the show here.
How to define When Will There Be Good News? There is murder and there is mystery, but it is not a murder mystery. It is humorous in a very, very black way, yet it is very much a drama. I will not even attempt to outline the plot here - it's quite complicated, and frankly I think you're better off just diving in to this splendidly satisfying book. I couldn't recommend it more highly, yet do advise that it is not for the faint of heart.