Kate Atkinson has a fascinating ability to take traditional crime/mystery themes and turn them into something else entirely – wry observations on relationships, how we see ourselves and how we often are different people depending on the situation or the others with whom we’re interacting at the time. She’s also adept at tying characters and plot threads together (albeit a little unrealistically in this book). In One Good Turn, her recurring references to Matryoshka dolls – those painted Russian dolls that fit inside each other – underscore the connections between the characters. The mysteries, in other words, aren’t what Atkinson’s books are really about.
Atkinson’s style is to put a character in a suspenseful situation and then pause to give readers a backstory or a lengthy look into the character’s thoughts and self-doubt. While those sly commentaries are part of the fun of her books, they also can bog down and make the story seem too slow at times. Sometimes I checked out mentally and, when I rejoined the action on the pages, didn’t feel like I’d missed anything of substance. That worked to advantage for the reveal at the end. It was a surprise for me because I’d stopped caring about the role of the assassin introduced at the beginning of the book.
I appreciate Atkinson’s talent, but I’ll wait a while before picking up the next novel in the series.
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