Private eye gets another Turn

Mystery writer follows up 'Case Histories' with Jackson Brodie plus a fender bender
by: , Author Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson made a pusher out of me.

Her fifth book, 'Case Histories,' has to be one of the best modern novels I have read in recent years. So I often find myself shoving it into the hands of unsuspecting bookstore patrons who appear to be searching for a good read.

On one occasion I engaged in a rather heated argument with a store clerk after I overheard him dismiss the plot as 'a weird little mystery.'

The thousands of readers who enjoyed 'Case Histories,' now in paperback and still popping up on best-seller lists two years after its publication, will be pleased to hear about the sequel, 'One Good Turn.'

Jackson Brodie, the reluctant private investigator from the previous book, is trying to enjoy a holiday in Edinburgh, Scotland, when he witnesses a mild fender bender turn violent. And off we go into a series of mysteries that, while admittedly 'weird,' are as complex and fascinating as the characters who populate them.

There's Martin Canning, a cowardly writer of popular cozies set in the mid-20th century. His heroine, Nina Riley, is apt to spout dialogue such as 'The blighter's getting away, Bertie. I need a weapon - throw me that hockey stick!'

And Gloria Hatter, the rich, middle-aged wife of an unscrupulous real estate developer, who is sharing space next to her husband's hospital bed with his young Russian mistress.

Not to mention Louise Monroe, a police detective who butts heads with Jackson as she investigates a series of crimes.

And there's Julia, Jackson's self-absorbed girlfriend and third-rate thespian, who figured prominently in 'Case Histories.'

Many readers have expressed their distaste for Julia by complaining directly to the author. 'To me, she's just Julia,' Atkinson noted. 'I think she's a much nicer person than most people seem to think.'

Atkinson, who lives in Edinburgh, is in the middle of her American tour for 'One Good Turn.' Speaking from a hotel room in Madison, Wis., she admits that what has surprised her about 'Case Histories' is 'that it's carried on selling.'

While both of her last two books feature quirky characters and twisting subplots, 'One Good Turn' has much more black humor than its predecessor. Atkinson notes that ' 'Case Histories' is a book that deals a lot with sadness. So it was a relief to move away from it.'

Currently the author is working on two books simultaneously. 'I haven't decided which one I want to focus on,' she says. But fans of Jackson Brodie should take heart. 'There may be a trilogy,' she says, 'but after that I may cap it.'

'One Good Turn'

by Kate Atkinson

Little, Brown and Co.

Kate Atkinson

When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday

Where: Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651

Cost: Free

Also reading this week

Readers who enjoyed the exploits of Frank Bascombe have had to wait more than a decade to learn what's been going on in his life. Author Richard Ford reveals all in 'The Lay of the Land,' which takes place at Thanksgiving 2000 as Frank endures a family get-together and everyone awaits the results of the presidential election. Ford will read 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651).

Last year Publisher's Weekly called Heather Sharfeddin's debut, 'Blackbelly' one of 'the season's most anticipated fiction debuts.' The prodigious author is back with her second novel, 'Mineral Spirits,' a tale of murder, drug-dealing and family set in Montana's scenic Mineral County. Sharfeddin, a Sherwood resident, will read 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Annie Bloom's Books (7834 S.W. Capitol Highway, 503-246-0053).

By my calculations, Ed Viesturs was still in short pants when Julie Andrews belted out 'Climb Every Mountain.' He took her advice to heart and became the first American to make it to the top of 14 8,000-meter mountains without the aid of bottled oxygen.

In his new memoir, 'No Shortcuts to the Top' (written with David Roberts), Viesturs discusses his life in extreme mountaineering. He will appear at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bagdad Theater (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-249-7474). The event is free, but seating is limited.

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