Almost anyone knows how the adage goes, "one good turn deserves another," but in the case of Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn novel, well, I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm not so sure what I think of the novel at all --- maybe as I review it, I will work it out.
Mild mannered Martin Canning, aka as Alex Blake, writes detective fiction for a living -- his snooper, the fairly innocuous Nina Riley. Martin makes a pile of money writing these rather lame, but popular novels, and secures himself a beautiful home and lifestyle, but his shy ways make him a easy target for moochers and leeches. Currently staying free of charge at his home is the unfunny comedian, Richard Mott, who has also borrowed his car and Rolex.
Outside a Fringe Theater District in a less than spectacular area of Edinburgh, Martin watches what seems to be a friendly fender bender (heh, as if they can be friendly), but turns violent when one of the drivers exits his car huffing and puffing like a mad man and holding a baseball bat. Mouth agape, Martin somehow, in a horrified stupor and before the bat wielding driver can put a second and final blow to the head of the other driver, hurls his laptop at the assailant. Then thinking the attacker will come after him, he falls over in a dead faint. The attacker, however, skedaddles as the little skirmish in the street draws too much attention.
When Martin comes out of his heroic reverie, the police are on the scene, and the assaulted driver, awake but with a concussion, thanks Martin for his intervention.
Before Martin knows it, he's in the ambulance and accompanying the victim to the hospital and assumes a type of "responsible party" for a man who claims he has no "next of kin" and assures Martin that he is fine and can be left alone. For some reason, the usually mild Martin winds up as his babysitter and then finds himself the victim of a crime -- his victim takes Martin's wallet and disappears.
Then it dawns on Martin that he has no identification, no money, and then remembers his laptop -- his weapon of choice is A.W.O.L. -- and therefore, his latest Nina Riley story gone -- not once but twice.... since the backup for it was on the flash drive securely safe in his wallet.
Eh. Martin became pretty quickly too dense for me to root for --- I hung my hat on one of these other characters.
Also at the scene of the road rage assault are other bystanders and witnesses --- the ex-policeman Jackson Brodie, who neglects to turn in the tag number of the "hit" (with the baseball bat-- heh) and run, and Gloria Hatter, wife of one of the richest and most corrupt house builders around. Gloria even stretches her neck to see what occurred but chooses to not reveal what she sees either.
Maybe I can root for one of them?
Jackson is all stupid over his actress girlfriend who thinks she's the clever one: she calls her director -- "savior" and "angel" -- and she's dressed in a potato sack and in a play titled Looking for the Equator in Greenland.
Gloria lives in an ostentatious estate on the outskirts of London and enjoys wearing outfits that match her peach themed living room.
Where the heck am I?
Meanwhile, Gloria's husband Graham suffers a heart attack while with a Russian call-girl, and "surprise, surprise"-- all of these characters cross each other's tracks and become semi-involved as the hunt for the crazed slugger and the reason why he assaulted the other driver like a medicated but effective Mark McGuire.
To further complicate matters, a pinked-out cleaning service called Favors (heh) finds a dead man at Martin's home -- and well, you know.... it's a mystery.
Then there is the policewoman, her son, a petty thief -- and the list goes on and on...
No likey Graham.
No likey call girl.
No likey policewoman.
No likey the pink dressed girls who worked for Favors.
I think I'd rather read Martin's Nina Riley missing story, Death on the Black Isle.
I finished this book -- it's the loser in me, but I did not particularly enjoy it. Everyone in the novel was a wanker.
Maybe I was the biggest wanker of all for finishing it.
Atkinson was trying to be funny, and I should have channeled my British sense of humor, perhaps taken a cup of tea, warmed my brogans by the fire, and chuckled wickedly to myself about how silly these characters were, but, you know, it just wasn't funny, even though, I do have to admit I love the word wanker.
So, I guess I can thank Atkinson for that?
One Good Turn does not deserve your turning the pages of this book. Forget Atkinson. If you want British humor, go read George Bernard Shaw.
But that's just me ... and I'm a wanker.
ETA: Jennifer? Just want you to know that almost everyone in this book had a secret. They just weren't dark -- they were boring.