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Kate Atkinson’s books don’t disappoint

British crime writer Kate Atkinson’s novel Started Early, Took My Dog 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.  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.

To order a copy of STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by Kate Atkinson from Amazon, click here.

Disclosure: If you order from this link, you will receive Amazon’s best price

and I will receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.

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Big Sky is neither a family saga nor a story about the wild west. It’s ‘way better.

Well! When I started reading Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky I must confess the title led me to expect a family saga along the lines of The Thornbirds, or perhaps a story about the American wild west. Obviously, I hadn’t done my homework about the author. Kate Atkinson is in fact a contemporary British crime writer with many novels to her credit that feature a recurring main character/hero by the name of Jackson Brodie.

Brodie is an ex-cop who hung out his own shingle as a private investigator after he left the force. Like Father Brown, Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher, Brodie has an uncanny knack for getting himself in the middle of nasty crimes that have unlikely connections to people he knows. Big Sky is set in the northeast of England in smaller, working-class towns where everybody seems to know everyone else. Yorkshire and its local culture are integral threads woven throughout the story.

We’re first introduced to three golfing buddies whose friendships go back a number of years. They come from different backgrounds and the ever-present British class system has a lingering effect on their ongoing relationship. For a variety of reasons, they have a tenuous loyalty to each other. Known as The Three Muskateers, Stephen, Andy, and Tommy have legitimate businesses that front more nefarious goings-on behind the scenes. Who would ever think that a lawyer, hotel owner and haulage entrepreneur would be the kingpins in a network of human trafficking and other sordid activities? The fourth member of their golfing foursome, Vince, by virtue of his social standing and background is not included in their business activities, but because he once saved the life of Stephen when they were teenagers, he’s accepted on the periphery of their social activities.

Stephen the lawyer is married to Sophie, a socially presentable partner. Andy and Tommy are each on wife number two. Andy’s wife Rhoda is adequate for his needs and Tommy’s new wife Candy is a walking, talking Barbie-doll with a secret past. Vince’s wife Wendy has kicked him out of the house. He’s lost his job and company car and he’s living in an unsavory little flat pondering what to do with the rest of his life. Then Wendy is murdered. Whodunnit? Even Jackson Brodie has a string of bad marriages and relationships that he’s trying to juggle to accommodate the needs of his two different children from different mothers. Lots of juicy subplots that include the various children of the characters are tossed in to sweeten the pot.

Kate Atkinson is a marvelous writer. She has a subtle sense of humour and her characters are exquisitely detailed, right down to what they like to eat. The good guys and bad guys are fairly evident right from the beginning but the reader is drawn along in a steady plot development that keeps us engaged right until the end. Will the human trafficking ring be exposed and the perpetrators brought to justice? What secrets do the characters have? Atkinson probably could have finished the story a bit earlier. There’s a story-line at the end that I could have lived without but perhaps it’s a leadup to a future book. Now that I know Atkinson’s stock-in-trade, I’ll definitely be reading more of her books. I loved this one, despite its overabundance of coincidences and convenient overlaps. We keep hoping the bad guys are going to get their comeuppance but the suspense lies in the series of events that gets us there. I’d rate Big Sky 8 out of 10 and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

 

To order a copy of BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson from Amazon, click here.

Disclosure: If you order from this link, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.

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Big Sky is neither a family saga nor a story about the wild west. It’s ‘way better.
Young lady reading a book, pop art retro vector illustration. Interesting reading
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