British crime writer Kate Atkinson’s novelÂ Started Early, Took My DogÂ is the fourth book I’ve now read by this author and I can officially add her to my list of favourite writers. Crime Fiction is a genre I never paid much attention to in the past but her writing style and quirky characters get me immediately absorbed into the plot. Started Early, Took My Dog once again stars Jackson Brody as the main character. He’s a bit past-his-prime, a former policeman who pays the rent with money earned as a somewhat down-at-the-heel private investigator based in Yorkshire, Northern England. The Yorkshire culture and locations are integral to Atkinson’s plots.
When Brody receives an email from Hope in New Zealand looking for her birth parents, he takes on the case, but without a lot of enthusiasm. Atkinson introduces a lot of characters but they’re all integral to the plot and all interesting in their own way. Tracy Waterhouse is a retired Yorkshire police officer who now works as head of security at a local mall. One day while walking her mall beat, she notices someone she recognizes as a known drug user and neglectful mother of her children dragging a helpless child through the mall while screaming obscenities. Tracy follows the women to the bus stop and in a moment of abandon, offers a large sum of cash to buy the child in order to keep her safe. The woman hands her over. The ex-cop is now an accidental mother and a criminal.
Around the same time, Jackson Brodie witnesses a small dog being abused by a large bully in the local park and in an act of salvation, he does much the same as Tracy Waterhouse and snatches the dog from the owner’s car. He’s now an accidental dog owner. Meanwhile, we learn that Tracy was involved in a peculiar murder/disappearing child case early in her career that she never forgot. Tilly, an elderly actress in the early stages of dementia has come to Tracy’s attention when she’s caught surreptitiously shop-lifting various incidentals in the mall. She can’t remember committing the crimes and can hardly remember where she is when she’s on stage performing a role.
All of Atkinson’s disparate characters come together in a jolly tale of murder, mystery, roots and deception. There were still some loose ends when I finished the book and I look forward to finding the threads in another one of Atkinson’s books.Â I absolutely adored Started Early, Took My Dog and couldn’t put it down. The author tends to introduce too many characters which are a challenge to keep straight, but I persisted. There are car chases, shady business dealings, cute kids, ex-wives, and all kinds of other skullduggery that come together in a great romp. I love the way Atkinson writes, with humour, sensitivity to the characters’ individual character flaws, and a complex set of circumstances that come together at the end. Not a candidate for any literary awards but a good read. I’d give it 7 out of 10.
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