What makes it really stand out, however, is the superb writing and shrewd observations of human nature. In lucid and potent prose, the reader is treated to all kinds of memories and thought excursions that are so prevalent in the heads of real people. Each character is 100% believable, Jackson Brodie first among them. While much of his background was revealed in Case Histories, the first of Atkinson's novels focusing on Brodie, the exposition surrounding him here both deepens his character and stands fine by itself for anyone who did not read the first book.
The novel is quite funny at times, and I'm sure I would have found it even more amusing if I were English; I could tell there were references I just didn't get. Not content to spin a mystery and throw in some great lines, Atkinson is also philosophical. Her characters contemplate religion but are not religious, struggle with their identities, and are taken with the idea of a fresh start in life. In the case of Mr. Brodie, starting over has lost its luster, and as the book closes, the reader is left with the impression that it's his old life he hears calling.
We don't get to know what Jackson will do at the end of the week. His three-day adventure is over, but he is less certain about his life than he was at the beginning of the novel. This is another strength of Ms. Atkinson's - the mystery is solved, but the characters lives are not resolved, and you get the feeling she's just gotten rolling.
Kate Atkinson is known as a literary mystery writer for good reason; One Good Turn is not a book one can just breeze through. The threads of the narrative intertwine, but not in a tight weave, and one must pay attention to catch the six-degrees-of-separation connections. It is well worth the effort, however. So sit down, get comfortable, and be prepared to be entertained for a good long time.