As another year closes, I’ve been listing just a few of my favorite things. Yes, these include raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. They also include felicitous language, mysteries to engage the little gray cells, and haiku. Equally important on my list of favorite things is humor--the unexpected word play or wry remark from a character.
Kate Atkinson’s second Jackson Brodie mystery, One Good Turn, has given me laugh out louds and several satisfied smiles. These arrive as good humor should--unexpectedly. They are surprises as characters stumble through their messy lives.
Jackson, for example, is often in the wrong place at the right time--unless, of course, that time needs a former police detective with time on his hands. He agrees to help Martin, a reclusive and reserved writer of popular mysteries, when Martin plays Good Samaritan in a rare moment of courage. When that moment leads to theft and murder, Martin asks Jackson to walk with him as a sort of bodyguard.
As it turns out, Martin owns a car but has never mastered shifting gears. Jackson’s tempted to coach Martin or take over the wheel, but remembers no one likes a back seat driver unless, of course, that back seat counselor is a woman. Then she who must be obeyed coaches and takes over. Jackson thinks, “Men had no purpose on earth whereas women were gods walking unrecognized among them.”
|A car any man--or woman--would be proud to drive.|
Photo provided by Al Griffin.
Jackson’s wry observation earned a satisfied smile from me because in this novel, Jackson’s world is overwrought with troublesome women. He tries to recover a girl’s body from the sea in order to give her the care any creature deserves, but she confounds his swimming skills and sinks. He tries to enjoy the world of drama in which his lover moves, but he just can’t appreciate the touch of narcissism he finds rooted in actors. Consequently, she’s withdrawing little by little.
Jackson meets a female detective who’s sharp and as jaded as Jackson himself. He just can’t seem to prove any of his observations, and she holds him in check because of it. Jackson also intervenes when a burly man tries to kill a young Russian who, it turns out, is more than capable of saving herself. She even helps Jackson escape harm later.
In fact, Jackson just can’t seem to work any sort of magic--be it physical attraction, logical prowess, or brute strength on any woman he encounters, making his observation about women as gods and men as puny subservient things funny. But that’s just one moment and not even the best moment in a Kate Atkinson novel.
She has a wry sense of humor and a jaded eye for mother and daughters, mothers and sons, lovers, writers, and detectives--just about anyone and everyone, in fact. She also embraces humanity in all its rich promise and hope. She is an author to read--book after book after book.
Read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and each of the Jackson Brodie novels. I’ve only begun the Jackson Brodie series, and I can’t wait to read more.
Write about the last book that made you laugh.