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One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn by Kate AtkinsonJackson Brody is in Edinburgh. So are a lot of other people: An unknown man who seems to be on a mission of some kind, and angry man who mostly get seen when he’s attacking someone, lots of Eastern European girls, the wife of a very dishonest businessman, a crime writer who gets much closer to real crime that he ever dreamed of and a police woman with a teenage son and a missing dead body to worry about.

One Good Turn is in many ways like the matryoshka dolls that keep turning up in it. Plots withing plots, red herrings, lots of people with unexpected connections and so on. To be honest I found that there were a little too many people to keep track of, sometimes I really wished for a list of the cast so I could take a look at it whenever one of the lesser characters made an appearance. I quite often spend time trying to figure out who the heck this was again.

Like in Case Histories there’s seemingly unconnected histories coming together to form a web of interconnectivity. I didn’t like it quite as much as the first one, maybe because I felt that the humor that was present in Case Histories was less present in this one. I also struggled more in keeping the figures straight, and all this contributed to me using a lot longer to get properly into it. Still, in the end I did get into it and really enjoyed the last third or so.

I also like the title. The idiom “One good turn deseves another” has a lot of impact on the actions of many of the characters in the book, quite often in ways that you don’t expect.

Øye for øye (Norwegian title) by Kate AtkinsonI wasn’t quite sure how to grade this book, but I ended up with a four. Mostly because of the many, many characters, a few of which I thought were only fillers that didn’t really need to be there. If I hadn’t liked Case Histories so much I’m not sure I would have stayed with this one long enough to be hooked, and that’s a weakness.

Still, I’m solidly hooked on Kate Atkinson and Jackson Brody by now, I’ll keep reading.

I read it in English, but it’s also translated into Norwegian and called “Øye for øye“.

More opinions and spoilers:

Dead heat by Dick & Felix Francis

The last weeks I’ve been on a small literary crime spree and now the turn has come to Dead heat by Dick & Felix Francis.

Max Moreton is a celebrity chef, not on top of the list, but on it.

Right now he wishes he was dead, a not uncommonfeeling if you have food poisoning, but the next morning he’s still alive. He’s also alive when the evening arrives, but that’s only luck. As the chef in charge of the tainted dinner, he know he’ll get the blame for the food poisoning, but there’s no way he can be blamed for the explosion that destroys a private box at Newmarket racecourse the next day. An explosion that kills several people and almost Max too.

Dead heat by Dick & Felix FrancisWhen it becomes clear what the guilty ingredient in the dinner was, Max sets out to find out who deliberately poisoned the meal. That particular ingredient had no business being in this dinner and it’s not something that he could have put in by mistake. Then more accidents happen and Max is starting to wonder why he seems to be the target.

Dick Francis knows his trade. It’s a solid book with a likeable hero and (after a little while) a likeable heroine. The mystery has lots of twists and turns and leads to unexpected places. As usual there’s horse people present, but this time it’s more about polo than horse racing. I also find the small glimpse into the world of celebrity chefs entertaining, and fittingly enough Gordon Ramsay is one of the people who gets thanked in the preface.

All in all it’s unmistakenly a work by Dick Francis, and in that lies it’s biggest weakness. For me, who’s read a bunch of Dick Francis novels, it’s too easy to guess what’ll happen next. I find his leading men a little to alike, it becomes predictable, and when I’m not reading a series that gets a bit tiresome after a while.

I did enjoy the book in spite of this and I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I wasn’t such a jaded Dick Francis reader.

Here’s the opinions of a few other people:

Monday morsel – One Good Turn

This Monday my Monday morsel comes from the crime novel One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. I presented the beginning of it on Friday, but I’ve got a bit further since then 🙂

I’m reading it right now, and the next sentence to read is:

Louise was running. Louise hated running but it was marginally preferable to going to the gym. The gym involved regular commitment and, outwith her job, she was crap at regular commitment. (p.148)

Book beginnings on Friday: March 4th 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Here’s what you do: share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section . Include the title and author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and if you liked or did not like that sentence. Link-up each week at Katy’s place.

As you might have seen from my last post I’ve read Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. This week’s beginning is from another book by Kate Atkinson: One Good Turn.

He was lost. He wasn’t used to being lost. He was the kind of man who drew up plans and then executed them efficiently, but now everything was conspiring against him in ways he decided he couldn’t have foreseen.

After reading the first few lines I was still a bit non-committal. It’s always intriguing with someone who normally is in control loosing that control, but I wasn’t sure.

By the bottom of the second page I was completely hooked.

Case histories / De fortapte

I’ve read my first book by Kate Atkinson and it is good. I read the English version “Case Histories“, but it’s also translated into Norwegian with the title “De Fortapte“.

Case Histories starts off with 3 case histories from 1970, 1979 and 1994. Two of the cases are cold cases and all of them still has impact on the lives of the people left behind. There is also a fourth case that we learn about later in the book.

10 years after the last case happened, during a warm summer in Cambridge, private detective Jackson Brodie gets involved in all the three cases. There are some surprises waiting for him.  As usual, if you want more spoilers you can go to some of the reviews I’ve linked to at the bottom of this post.

This is not a simple crime novel. It has so many layers. There are unsuspected connections between the three cases, it doesn’t tell you outright all the answers you might want to know and it has some really interesting characters. Starting the book with the three case histories and their different tragedies, works very well. You come away from the start of the book desperately curious about what really happened, sure that there’s a lot you don’t know.

As mentioned above I think that the novel has some really interesting characters. Jackson is newly, unhappily divorced, dreaming of retiring in France and an overprotective father of his young daughter. The sisters of one of the victims are very different from each other and constantly squabbling, the sister in law of another victim has a dodgy relationship with the truth (spoiler, sorry…) and the father of the third victim is still obsessed with what happened to his daughter. And then there are the neighbours…

Apart from the case histories there are four different voices telling the story: Jackson, Amelia (one of the squabbling sisters), Theo (the father of one victim) and Caroline (a woman who a first doesn’t seem to have any connection to any the cases). I like this way of telling the story, it lets us see many of the characters from different perspectives and gives us a broader overall picture than one character could.

It shouldn’t really be possible, but this is also at times a quite funny book.

I was really caught up in it and as a result of this I’ve already started reading another book by Kate Atkinson.

Highly Recommended!

Some other people’s opinions:

Crossfire by Dick & Felix Francis

The last week or so I’ve gone back to reading crime novels, and I started with Crossfire by the father/son-duo Dick & Felix Francis.

Dick Francis had several professional careers through his life: During WWII he was a pilot in the RAF, during the fifties he was a professional jockey and also rode for The Queen Mother (the mother of Queen Elisabeth) and from the last half of the fifties until the early seventies he worked as a journalist while also writing crime novels. He wrote an autobiography in 1957 and has since written more than 40 crime novels, the last 4 with his son Felix Francis. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages and more than 30 of them has been translated into Norwegian. Dick Francis passed away in early 2010.

Dick Francis usually has different main characters in all his books, the exception being Sid Halley (ex-jockey turned private eye) who turns up in 4 books (first appearing in 1965 and last seen in 2006) and Kit Fielding (jockey) who is in 2 books. The main characters has different professions and some of the books that place in other countries than the UK, but the books always has some connection to horse racing, mostly steeplechasing.

The common environment makes it a lot like reading a series, you know more or less what to expect and don’t have to get to know a completely new environment. At the same time the author has the freedom of creating new characters with new stories, a freedom that authors of regular series must envy.

The leading character in Crossfire is Captain Thomas Forsyth. He’s been seriously injured in Afghanistan and after being released from hospital he goes to stay at his mothers place. She is a well known and very successful racehorse trainer. He quickly discovers that things are far from right at Kauri Stables. Horses loose races in a disturbing manner, and his mother doesn’t want to admit that there is a problem.

As usual when it comes to Dick Francis this is an exciting book with some good surprises along the way. I don’t think it’s great, but good enough to be an enjoyable read.

If you want more spoilers and to see what other people think, you can try these sites:

Monday Morsel – Crossfire

The morsel this Monday comes from the novel Crossfire by Dick & Felix Francis. Dick Francis has written a string of crime novels from the English steeplechasing milieu and this is the last of theese novels as he died in 2010.

“Please don’t be annoyed with me,” I said in my most calming way. “I’m here to help you.”
Her shoulders drooped and she slumped onto a chair at the kitchen table.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I don’t fell I can carry on.”
“What, with the training?”
“With life,” she said.
(p.88)

So far it’s fast paced and exciting, what you’d expect from a Dick Francis novel.

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