Case Histories Review: One Good Turn

CASE HISTORIES – A GOOD TURN (PART ONE): Sunday 12th June, BBC1, 9pm

“What profit it of a man, if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?â€? utters a non-crestfallen soon-to-be widow as she looks over the comatose body of her adulterous husband. Could this seemingly inconsequential scene give a subtle insight into the motivations of one Jackson Brodie? A man who – in some ways, unintentionally – always places the needs of others above his own.

The second Case Histories two-parter (the concluding episode follows tomorrow) is an adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s second Jackson Brodie novel, One Good Turn, which sees a series of seemingly unconnected storylines integrate with one another until, as usual, we come to discover that they weren’t unconnected at all.

A semi-famous crime novelist intervenes the brutal beating of road rage victim; a middle-aged woman discovers her double-dealing husband was cheating on her with a dominatrix, as he lays unconscious in a hospital bed; a fast-living untalented comedian abuses his brothers hospitality over the duration of Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe; and our hero, Jackson Brodie, finds the body of a very recently murdered eastern-European girl floating in the ocean. During the course of this tonight’s helping we discover how each character and each storyline is interrelated, a la Brodie’s mantra: “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.â€?

We also discover the source of Brodie’s abhorrent flashbacks: his sister’s tragic death, which subsequently lead to his elder brother’s suicide attempt. Was she murdered and dumped in a canal, or did she simply drown? The answer to this question will undoubtedly lead to a greater understanding of Jackson Brodie’s character. The episode draws you in from the start and doesn’t disappoint, it keeps you guessing and making connections throughout: why does the road rage victim have a silenced handgun in his bag; who drugged the crime novelist; what does the strange symbol tattooed on the wrist of the second victim mean; and perhaps most importantly, how did such a terrible comedian get a spot in Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe?

Of course, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know the answer to all of the above – except maybe for the question regarding the comedian. But if not, you’re just going to have to wait for next week’s concluding episode like the rest of us.