One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie 2) by Kate Atkinson



After thinking Case Histories was really pretty poor, I had low expectations going into this, and Atkinson has limbo-danced effortlessly under them. I wouldn’t have tried it at all except that in a moment of supreme foolishness I acquired the first four books in the series from NetGalley on the mistaken assumption that I’d like them. You’d think I’d know better by now.

11% in, and no plot has peeked through the miasma of tedium that Atkinson exudes so well. Character sketch after character sketch, all of characters who would bore me to a frenzy in real life. Especially when her supposedly adult characters think, talk and have sex twelve times a minute. Most people lose that ability round about the same time as their teenage pimples clear up! The only time this bunch aren’t thinking about sex is when they’re obsessing about death. Admittedly I was kinda obsessing about death too – or fantasising might be a better word. Some characters really deserve to become the next victim. The blurb mentions Dickensian – what an insult! Dickens could never have produced characters as banal as these! Nor would he resort to swearing every few minutes in a failed bid to sound hip…

(Oliver held up his little bowl. “I effing want effing more!” Mrs Bumble slapped him with her spoon absentmindedly, as she remembered how last night Mr Bumble had made the earth move for her – six times! – and all without removing his hat! Oh, she thought, sensing a sudden glow beneath her unmentionables, I effing want effing more too…)

Nope! Abandoned, and books 3 and 4 will have to struggle on without me. An author to strike from my list of future temptations – hurrah! Hopefully the next crime novel I read will actually be about a crime.

NB This book was provided for review by Random House Transworld.

Book 13 of 20

* * * * *

As a result of this debacle, I’m removing the third book, When Will There Be Good News?, from my 20 Books of Summer list (which ironically feels very much like good news to me!), and replacing it with:

Murder in the Mill-Race written by ECR Lorac who, unlike Ms Atkinson, understands that crime fiction should be about crime.

65 thoughts on “One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie 2) by Kate Atkinson

  1. I’m here to apologise for encouraging you last time to ‘try just one more Brodie novel’ lol. It was obviously never going to be a match made in heaven, so time to move swiftly on to the next TBR from the pile 🙂

    • Hahaha – I forgive you! 😉 No, sometimes an author and a reader just don’t get along – faults on both sides and all that! Despite my bitter review, I could see why the books could appeal to some readers, but I have an unaccountable belief that crime novels should be mainly about the crime… 😂

    • I read a couple of her books when she was new on the scene and then stopped. I assumed I’d just kind of lost track of her as sometimes happens, but now I’m thinking I probably found that her style didn’t work for me back then either.

  2. The first in this series is on my bookshelf so at some point I will have to try it for myself. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just remember your little Dickens rewrite and satisfy myself with that 😄

    • Hahaha – I may never think of Mr and Mrs Bumble in the same way again! Hopefully you won’t have the same allergic reaction as me – loads of people, even quite sensible ones, inexplicably love this series… 😉

  3. After your experience with the previous book, I applaud your decision to try again with this author. Sorry it didn’t work out but at least I now know this isn’t a series I should be catching up on. Silver lining!

  4. Nice one, FF. Your Oliver spoof cracked me up. If someone ever has the bright idea of trying to modernise Dickens the way Joanna Trollope etc did with Austen a few years back, I reckon there could be a job for you.
    When I read your review of the first Brody book, I thought about being slightly perverse and reading it myself, but I reckon I’ll just trust your judgement and save myself many hours of mind-numbing boredom, not to mention an Audable credit.

    • Hahaha – thank you! Ugh – if anyone ever does that, I won’t be held responsible for my actions! Haha – I hated that Trollope book with every fibre of my being, and my review of it makes this one look positively restrained. And yet still it wasn’t as bad as Alexander McCall Smith’s take on Emma…

      I’m reluctant to say don’t listen to them since so many people love them – but honestly I find that inexplicable! It gave me great pleasure to delete the other two from my Kindle…

  5. So, let me guess, FIctionFan. This one wasn’t for you? In all seriousness, I’m sorry to hear it. I have to say, though, that the Oliver bit it inspired is hilarious – thanks for that! Bottom line is, you tried too of Atkinson’s novels and that was enough. When I feel that way about an author I don’t go for a third try, either…

    • Haha – I had a severe allergic reaction, I’m afraid! Isn’t it odd how some books simply don’t work for one reader while other readers love them? Readers are strange beasts! Poor Mr and Mrs Bumble – I may never be able to think of them the same way again… 😉

  6. I’m currently reading the latest ‘Jackson Brodie’ novel Big Sky. I’ve struggled to get into the non-crime novels Kate Atkinson has written before – I read the praise and hype and then am underwhelmed. I thought this might be the way in – but 100 pages in to Big Sky and the first body has literally just turned up – too slow and dull thus far. The character of Brodie himself reminds me of the character Flat Stanley in the kids book for Brodie is the most one dimensional detective/PI in any crime fiction I’ve read – will persevere to the end but having read this review am not holding out much hope!!!

    • I haven’t fancied her recent non-crime ones, but when NetGalley made all these available in the lead up to the publication of Big Sky I couldn’t resist – Big Mistake!! I think they do no favours by marketing these as crime novels, because they’re really not, and that means loads of crime readers are going to be disappointed (or in my case, bitter… 😉 ) Yes, I didn’t see the attraction of Brodie as a character either – he really lacks all personality.

  7. Oh dear. Hadn’t seen many one star reviews lately. Though at least it inspired a parody. 😉
    Are the books you dropped from this series the reason for your reduced TBR list?

    • Haha – I’ve been abandoning books at such an early stage recently it hasn’t seemed fair to review them, but some books just cry out for a bitter rant! 😉 Yes! Three books removed in one fell swoop – it was a great feeling! I abandoned another one too, but won’t be reviewing it, so all in all – zero books read, four abandoned – not my best reading week ever… 😂

  8. HeeHee, I love reading your rants!! As soon as I saw the one-star rating, I knew I was in for a treat, and you certainly didn’t disappoint me. So you got 11 percent of the way in, huh? Sounds as if you gave it more than enough time — good for you! Quitting isn’t always the failure people tend to think it is, right?!

    • Hahaha – I always feel a bit mean when I do a rant, but some books deserve it! 😉 Yes, I struggled all the way through the first in the series, but 11% was more than enough this time – sometimes an author and a reader just don’t get along! I’m much better at abandoning books than I used to be – life is short and my TBR is long… 😀

  9. This makes me feel better for 1) not remembering anything about the first Brodie book I read and 2) not having any desire to read more of them. 😉

  10. When I saw this title on your feed, it stopped me short . . . until the un-star restored my faith.) Bravo.

    • Hahaha! I was temporarily fooled into believing these would be good, but I’ve recovered now! I may have to read three Agatha Christies in a row to regain my full equilibrium… 😉

  11. Oh, I love this review! Well, perhaps I should start by saying, I am sorry you did not like it (I truly am) but you do know how to write a negative review in an entertaining way. Limbo-dancing below expectations…

    I briefly entertained the idea of trying one of the Brodie books, when I saw Atkinson is one of the main speakers on the upcoming Capital Crime Festival, but no – it’s not going to happen.

    • Hahaha – thank you! I fear books occasionally bring out my brutally sarcastic side, but really – it’s not my fault if they deserve it! 😉 In fairness though, loads of people love this series – even quite sensible people with excellent taste – so don’t let my bitter ranting put you off. Although they are pretty awful… 😉

      • In this case, I am going to take your word for it. 1 star ratings (or was this a 0 star??) don’t necessarily hold me back, I will always look at, why the reviewer didn’t like the book. Based on that I feel quite certain, that Jackson Brodie is not for me.

        Btw. reading Oliver Twist will never be the same again!

        • Yes, I often find 1-star reviews more helpful than glowing 5-stars, so long as the reviewer explains what they didn’t like. And they don’t necessarily put me off either. Hahaha! I fear I may never get that image of Mr and Mrs Bumble out of my head again either! I owe Dickens a sincere apology… 😉

  12. ha! Good for you. That quote made me cringe-ewww. I haven’t read any of her Brodie series yet, although the publisher sent me her newest one, so I may gave it a go. Your review here made me question that though…perhaps it isn’t worth the time I’m now thinking.

    • Haha- oh dear, I should have made it clearer that that’s not a quote – it was just me imagining what a Dickens book might have been like if it had written in Atkinson’s style! Don’t let me put you off – loads of people love these books however inexplicable I find that idea. I just had a severe allergic reaction to them… 😂

  13. Oh dear. The Brodie novels are my favourite Atkinson novels. I wonder if part of the problem is that they are described as crime novels so people read them with certain expectations in mind but – as you have found – the crime really isn’t that big an element. Never mind, we can’t all like the same books. You tried it, it didn’t work, you have plenty of others to read

    • Haha – I’m sorry! Sometimes an author and a reader just don’t get along and I fear that’s what happened here. I think you’re right about the definition of them as crime novels though – if I’d been reading them as contemporary fiction I’d have reacted differently. I do expect crime novels to follow a certain format – not slavishly, but within reason, such as being primarily about a crime… 😉

      • Exactly, those genre categorisations are meant to be signals to us about what to expect. Not to the point of being identikit novels – its fun when someone breaks the formula but still you want something that has a passing resemblance to the genre

        • Yes, I’m sure that’s why I’m enjoying the vintage crime so much at the moment. They’re not as formulaic as we tend to think but they do have a recognisable structure that makes them very easy reading.

  14. I recently read another review of her books that made her seem like an effort to read! I don’t know if I could handle more like that quote there. What on earth! I hope your next read is one you love. ♥️

    • They seem to be love it or hate it books – plenty of people love them devotedly, but as you’ll have gathered, not me! 😉 Haha – oh dear, I should have made it clearer that that’s not a quote – it was just me imagining what a Dickens book might have been like if it had written in Atkinson’s style! I must add a note to the review to clarify! (Mind you, some of the actual book is nearly as bad… 😉 )

  15. You are so right to dodge book three as I ploughed on to the end and it was a bitter one. There was no good news, just total depression! I have liked some of her books though – well maybe one.

    • Hahaha – I think I’m bitter enough already then without trying a third one! 😉 I remember reading a few back when she was new on the scene and then I stopped. I couldn’t remember why and assumed I’d just kinda lost touch with her as sometimes happens, but now I’m thinking maybe I decided her style wasn’t working for me even back then…

  16. I thought When Will There be Good News? was so much better than One Good Turn. In fact I thought it was excellent, whereas I thought OGT was over complicated, especially at the beginning with so many different seemingly unrelated characters being introduced and also too much detail, background information and flashbacks holding up the action. But it was still a book that I had to finish – I had to find out what happened and work out the puzzle.

    We can’t all like the same books …

    • No, indeed, and when someone’s as popular as Kate Atkinson I know my grumpy reaction won’t do her book sales any harm! It was all those characters at the start of OGT that did for me – oddly I thought Case Histories started brilliantly and went downhill, but this one lost me before it even got going. I’ve taken antihistamines though and my allergic rash is fading… 😉

  17. Well, I definitely don’t want to read this, but your review did make me laugh! Especially the Atkinson-Dickens parody. I found the same thing when I tried to read Transcription – I wanted it to be mostly about the main character’s WWII work in intelligence, but it was a lot more about how much she wanted to sleep with her boss, and so the plot became rather peripheral. I think she’s an author I feel comfortable skipping.

    • Haha – glad you enjoyed it, though I feel I owe Dickens a huge apology! 😂 Ugh! Again the blurb for Transcription really appealed to me but I think I’ve tried enough of her now to know her style doesn’t work for me – I do get very tired of characters obsessing about sex – something that’s far more interesting for the characters than the readers… 😉

  18. Oh dear! Now I’m doubting myself being so in love with this series… in my defense, these aren’t shelved in the Mystery section of our library system, but in Fiction, so perhaps expectations come into play? I agree, they do not feel like standard crime novels to me either. Who knows… you say po-tay-to, I’ll say po-tah-to. 🙂

    Well, at least you’ve figured out what you like and what you don’t like, ha ha! I’m glad you have decided not to try any others. More time for the books you like.

    • Ha! I wish I’d had some po-tay-toes handy – I could have thrown them at Brodie! But you’re way in the majority on this one – I just had an allergic reaction to her style, as happens occasionally. I think expectations really do play a part – I might have got on better with them if I hadn’t been thinking of them as crime novels. Maybe… 😉

    • Haha – glad you enjoyed it! 😀

      I would have – I was actually quite tempted by her newish one, Transcription, but I fear I’ve gone completely off the idea now. Sometimes a writer and a reader simply don’t gel, and I think that’s the case here.

  19. 😁 I love it! This review that is, not the Brodie series 😉 Can it be that your rants are even more entertaining than your 5-star reviews? 😁 😁

  20. I love Atkinson’s other books so much, especially Life After Life but I’ve never really been tempted by her Jackson Brodie series. Your review is very entertaining and making me feel comfortable with my continued avoidance of these books.

    • Haha – glad I could help! I think it’s just a mismatch between reader and author here – I know I read a couple of her early books and then stopped, and I’m thinking now that I may have hit the same problem back then. She’ll be very happy to know I’m not planning on reviewing any more of her books… 😉

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