Road-rage attack reverberates in 'One Good Turn'

Yes, Virginia, there is another mystery writer in Scotland besides Ian Rankin. Why I had never heard of Kate Atkinson before, I do not know - she writes like an angel and her sense of humor is wed firmly to her formidable intelligence.

In "One Good Turn," the sequel to the excellent "Case Histories," her reluctant detective, Jackson Brodie, reappears a bit older, a bit wiser, and romantically involved with one of the main characters in the previous book, Julia, a not particularly successful actress. Brodie has accompanied her to Edinburgh, where she's performing in an avant-garde play during the Fringe Festival.

The novel begins with a line of ticket-holders waiting to get into a venue. Suddenly, a fender bender beside the queue turns violent, "but the crowd was in audience mode, like promenaders at a particularly brutal piece of theater, and they had no intention of spoiling the entertainment."

One of the witnesses is a meek fellow named Martin Canning, who happens to be a successful detective novelist. In horror, he realizes one of the two men in the fender bender is about to bash in the other's head with a baseball bat. In an out-of-character instant, he hurls his bag at the aggressor's head - and misses, because "he'd never been able to aim or catch, he was the kind of person who ducked when a ball was thrown in his direction, but his laptop was in the bag and the hard weighty edge of it caught the Honda driver on the shoulder and sent him spinning."

Martin Canning, like the hero of Hogg's "Confessions of a Justified Sinner," has a double, Alex Blake. Alex is everything Martin is not: strong, clever, memorable. But, like all doubles, he's really a part of Martin - in this case, the pen name he writes under. Poor Martin in the flesh cannot present himself as a great Scot, not even when he's dressed in a kilt.

Still, there's more to Martin. He's not quite the milquetoast he seems, although I must say the revelation we ultimately get about him is the one aspect of this novel that does not ring true to me. But that's OK - the novel is a wonderful read despite that. Although I liked "Case Histories" slightly more than this sequel, I remain utterly impressed by Kate Atkinson. I'll definitely be reading anything else she cares to publish.