Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel

by Kate Atkinson

Hardcover, 2011

Call number




Reagan Arthur Books (2011), Edition: 1, 384 pages


Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective �?? a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other �?? or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge. Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue: that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpun… (more)

Media reviews

“Started Early, Took My Dog” — with a wonderful title from Emily Dickinson, summoning a poem that is as artfully enshrouded as this novel — is... jampacked with echoes, parallels, doppelgängers, sneaky omissions and authorial attempts to mislead. For Ms. Atkinson this is business as usual
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and often a source of final-act revelatory glee. But it doesn’t coalesce as neatly as this series’s earlier installments have.
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2 more
The Independent
Kate Atkinson began as a prize-winning literary novelist with Behind the Scenes at the Museum and has, like Michael Dibdin and Ian Rankin before, reinvented herself by using the tropes of detective fiction. She's just as serious and formally interesting as ever, only her novels featuring the
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ex-policeman Jackson Brodie involve unravelling a couple of murders. With their startling first chapters, appealing cast of familiar characters and meticulous observation of contemporary reality they read like Elizabeth George crossed with Elizabeth Bowen. The fourth, Started Early, Took My Dog is about child abduction, and people who fall through the cracks of modern Britain unless somebody bothers to help. The narrative switches between the 1970s and today with dizzying, at times perplexing, skill. Tracy, its hefty heroine is, like Brodie, ex-police. As a young copper she found a starving, half-frozen child in a flat with his murdered mother. Tracy persists in asking questions, and the child disappears. Atkinson's detective novels capture the strangeness of modern times, and our supposedly atomised lives, with spiky wit, emotional intelligence and consummate cleverness. All her novels are about the choices that we make and the things we leave behind; about parenthood and the anguish that vulnerability brings. Above all, they scrutinise an England too few literary novelists seem to notice, or care about.
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So much of the narrative is retrospective or interior that there's not much urgency to unfolding events, however highly coloured. And there's a rhetorical whimsy reminiscent of some of Atkinson's earlier books, a devil-may-care gesturing at the novel's own fictionality, which can leave the
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characters threatening to float free of our trust in them. But we follow their digressive, meandering voices avidly as they circle around their own particular loves and losses, all knitted together with Atkinson's extraordinary combination of wit, plain-speaking, tenderness and control. She's an old hand at paradox now: "All roads lead home," says Julia. "All roads lead away from home," Jackson replies.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Jackson Brodie has made a career out of finding missing people. This line of work is somewhat of an obsession, brought on by his sister's disappearance and murder many years before. In this, the fourth novel in a series, Jackson is searching for a young woman's biological parents. Kate Atkinson
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carefully weaves this thread with several others to create a complex tale full of twists and turns. Several prostitutes have been found murdered, prompting speculation about a serial killer. Tracy Waterhouse, recently retired from the police force, impulsively rescues 4-year-old Courtney from an abusive situation, and finds herself taking on significant new responsibility. Tilly, an aging actress, struggles to cope as dementia begins to affect her work. And finally, the thirty-year-old unsolved murder of Carol Braithwaite is always lurking in the background.

All these disparate stories are related, and Kate Atkinson is a master at the slow reveal. She leaves tiny clues as she moves from one thread to the next. Some are red herrings, of course, which keeps the reader -- and Jackson -- guessing. Atkinson also skilfully manipulates her readers, encouraging us to make assumptions based on what hasn't been said: Jackson's breakthrough comes when he realizes he failed to ask the most obvious question. Each thread also features well-developed characters. Tilly's relationship to the crimes was unclear through most of the novel, but her story was an emotional one that could almost stand on its own. Much of the novel revolved around Tracy and Courtney, and while some of their story seemed far-fetched, it provided action and pacing.

Unfortunately, Jackson's investigation seemed superfluous and lacked excitement. Inserting Jackson into a larger crime story allowed Atkinson to continue developing his character by playing out the effects of events from earlier novels, and leaving a tiny cliffhanger for possible consideration in a future book. This was a disappointment, but Atkinson still produced a ripping good mystery that kept me engaged from start to finish.
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LibraryThing member cameling
When I first read 'Case Histories', I didn't think this would turn into a series but I'm so glad it has.

As with others in the series, Jackson Brodie continues on his self-reflective journey. This time, he rescues an abused dog and, dog in tow, he searches for the biological parents of Hope
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McMasters, a search that seems hopeless as clues as to their whereabouts and even her adoption, continue to be elusive.

Tracey Waterhouse, a retired detective, now in charge of security at a mall, sees a repeat drug offender dragging a young child and makes a sudden decision that has consequences she could not have foreseen.

There is so much complexity in this novel I found it difficult to put down because I was afraid I'd lose track of the many different characters. Atkinson's ability to bring seemingly different stories together is sheer genius. Like the spokes of a bicycle, what started out separately gradually begin to mesh and narrow before finally culminating in a dense and twisted center. Events that seemed random emerge later with brilliant relevance.

I think this is my favorite of the series so far.
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LibraryThing member FAR2MANYBOOKS
“A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.” it’s unclear how story lines and major characters are going to intersect. It’s normal in mysteries to not know who the bad guy is, but to not even know why the novelist is focusing on the characters she is—well, that takes the
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“mystery” term to a whole different level… and that’s what Atkinson does, taking this genre to a new high.
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LibraryThing member ShellyS
Jackson Bodie is often a poor excuse for a detective. He can be so dense sometimes. And he's often his own worst enemy. But he's honest, has a good heart, good instincts, is a decent guy, has a habit of hooking up with women who are wrong for him, and ends up always doing the right thing. He also
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has baggage. A lot of baggage. His sister was murdered when he was a boy and he's never gotten over it, especially because her killer was never found. Both his parents are dead, his older brother killed himself. He's got a teen daughter, an ex-wife, an ex-lover and a son by the ex-lover, and a fake wife who emptied his bank account. Then there's the near-death experience in a train wreck in a previous book, and it's understandable that Jackson has issues.

In this tale, he's looking for the true identity of a woman who was adopted as when she was a toddler. Concurrently, a retired policewoman, Tracy Waterhouse, buys a little girl from a prostitute, an event that propels the action of much of the story. As the story progresses, a series of events, small and large and amazingly coincidental, knit together to form a whole that is riveting and emotional. How Jackson's investigation ties into a 30-year old murder of a prostitute that Tracy and her partner discovered forms the backbone of the plot. Add in an aging actress sinking into dementia, a dog Jackson rescues from his abusive owner, and a mysterious man in a gray car, and you've got a typical Atkinson novel, one with stories that reach into the past and lead back to an explosive climax when all the scattered elements come together.

The mystery isn't the point, exactly. I figured out most of it, even if I didn't nail the actual killer. This is more than a mystery. It's a novel with a mystery driving it. It's more the story of lost and found children, abuse and survival. And it makes for addicting reading.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
Hope McMaster, now a young woman, was orphaned and adopted in the UK before she was relocated to New Zealand with her adoptive family. Longing to discover her biological roots, she contacts infamous private investigator, Jackson Brodie. And so begins a veritable goose chase. A network of characters
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appear to have played a role in Hope’s “adoption,” but none of them are talking, particularly not to Brodie. Among the suspicious characters: a social worker, a reporter, a security guard, and several cops. Jackson says of the women he’s chasing (different context this time!), “Where on earth were all these women disappearing to? Was there a black hole somewhere that was sucking in middle-aged women – Tracy Waterhouse, Linda Pallister and now Marilyn Nettles. And all somehow connected to Hope McMaster.”

Truthfully, I didn’t care for Started Early, Took My Dog. I found it long and unnecessarily convoluted – Atkinson’s signature style overdone to the point where, at least for me, it detracted from both her witty intelligence and from the story line. For readers who have read the first three Brodie novels, this series finale is worth a read; otherwise, I do not recommend it.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
The title of this novel randomly caught my attention a while ago, so I borrowed a copy from the library - and discovered that the story is set 'in my neck of the woods', which intrigued me even more. The characters and backstory reminded me a lot of the BBC series Life on Mars, which Kate Atkinson
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references, and I loved the dark humour, but I think there were perhaps one too many irons in the fire - the 1970s murder, the modern day 'Ripper' killings, the batty old lady, the little girl, etc. All of threads tie together in the end, just about, but not without a convenient coincidence or two. Still, I kept reading to find out what happened and why, and I wasn't disappointed - although most of the 'twists' were fairly plain.

Retired policewoman turned rentacop Tracy Waterhouse intervenes to protect a child, but the ghosts of her professional past drive her to take a drastic step which will change her life completely. Private detective Jackson Brodie returns to his Yorkshire roots on the trail of a client's murky family history, stirring up trouble for Tracy and her former colleagues. And silly Tilly Squires, an ageing actress with dementia, waits in the wings as a deus ex machina.

The opening chapters are very slow, introducing every character past and present with a great chunk of train-of-thought introspection, but Kate Atkinson gives them all individual voices and complicated life histories, which helps to make Tracy, Jackson and Tilly seem somehow more real. I love Jackson and his canine ally, The Ambassador, and felt sorry for poor old Tilly. One detail that nagged me throughout, and especially after finishing the novel, though - what about Courtney? I might have missed a paragraph, but her background wasn't really explained, and I wanted to find out about her more than Carol Braithwaite.

Started Early is a murder mystery tour of Yorkshire that is funny, poignant and dark in equal measure. My favourite part, however, is the joke that Jackson's daughter told him: How many men does it take to wallpaper a room? Four, if you slice them very thinly. LOL.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors, occupying that short list of authors whose new books are gleefully pre-ordered without any prior knowledge of subject matter. Upon receiving the book, I'll look it over and then do my best to put off reading it for as long a possible. An unread book that
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I'm certain to love is too valuable to squander.

So I'm an unreliable reviewer for Started Early, Took My Dog, the fourth in a series of novels featuring Jackson Brodie, an ex-private investigator specializing in missing persons. Here, Jackson is older and still alone, although he is pulled into an ex-girlfriend's orbit by their son, whom he is getting to know. He's looking for the birth parents of a woman in New Zealand and not getting very far. Meanwhile, an aging actress desperately tries to hide her increasing forgetfulness and the head of security at a shopping mall impulsively makes a purchase that will put her outside of the law.

Atkinson's novels are great tangled masses that are flipped over at the end to show an evenly woven cloth. This one seems a little more disjointed at first, a little more melancholy than usual. I don't think that they can be read out of order, you do have to begin with [Case Histories].
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LibraryThing member womansheart
Jackson Brody is Still One of My Heroes

This review is for any of you who enjoy the books written by Kate Atkinson, and are contemplating a read of her recently published book, [Started Early, Took My Dog]. It is an intriguing mystery, a tale well told. It is a story told in fairly concise bits,
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allows many voices, many characters, many locales, many morals, some ambiguity, victims, heroes, survivors and, inevitably a group of people who do not survive to the end of the story.

Although this book is not what I would define as noir literature, it would be an interesting and compelling audio book, read by the late Humphrey Bogart, as his world-weary, gruff voice would enhance the world-weary, gruff tale.

I rate this book four and a half stars out of a possible five, for the excellent writing; including the stimulating vocabulary, the fresh dodgy characters and the familiar steadfast ones from her previous books. (Notice these two especially, The Little Girl and The Dog, they make worthwhile contributions).

By the way, start back at the beginning with Atkinson's earlier published work(s) if you haven't read them, in order to have the background on the core and recurring characters you need in order to enhance what you will read in this one. ****1/2
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Yet another winner from Kate Atkinson. All of the customary ingredients are there: immensely plausible characters, labyrinthine plot, a threat of gruesome crimes in the background conveyed without direct and gratuitous violence on the page, and a string of hilarious one-lines, often quite at
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variance with the unfolding action.
In this latest novel Jackson Brodie returns, searching for the true past of a client who now lives in New Zealand, who had been adopted as a very young children. His journey takes him back to Leeds and then through Yorkshire to Whitby, via Fountains Abbey. In the meantime, former police Superintendent Tracy Waterhouse is on the run after pandering to a bizarre sudden impulse. Meanwhile her former colleagues are getting concerned as long-dead memories from the start of their respective careers start to drift back to life. What did happen in Leeds in 1975? And what did aging actress Tilly really see in the Merrion Centre that morning?
The author effortlessly succeeds in keeping a multitude of plates spinning on a series of poles, never letting the various burgeoning tensions fail. Definitely worth reading. I had looked forward to this book for a long time, and wasn't disappointed in the least.
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LibraryThing member CarltonC
Another excellent mystery story including Jackson Brodie (a character from her three previous mystery stories) but mainly about Tracy Waterhouse, an ex-cop, turned security guard, who abducts a child. Although the recurring theme of the book is lost children, I was really reading the book for the
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journey, not the mystery, as the writing was so effortless and continued development of Jackson Brodie's character was so enjoyable.
The Matilda "Tilly" Squires storyline was the least convincing part of the novel for me, as it felt as if it was included more as a necessity of the narrative, rather than being a real story.
If you are new to Kate Atkinson start with Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which is a marvellous debut, and then try Case Histories, the first of the Jackson Brodie novels. For me, they are all so enjoyable, you end up reading them all.
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LibraryThing member livrecache
In this fourth book of the series, Jackson Brodie has discovered Emily Dickinson and is in Yorkshire where he grew up, reflecting on his lost youth and his lost wives (both literally and through carelessness). On his travels he rescues a small dog which, when the going gets rough, helps him
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As always, there are a number of interweaving threads in this story, which all connect to make a vibrant tapestry of Leeds' criminal underworld over the past 30 years. There's not a neat ending: I'm left gasping for more. And as always, I want to re-read all of Atkinson's Brodie books, but life's too short. I simply love her turns of phrase, and her ironical humour. Some of it relies on knowledge of pop culture, but for me that's not a bother.
The only character I had trouble with was an old lady whose descent into dementia was too real for comfort, but then the more positive side of that was that it gave me a slightly deeper insight into what my mother may be going through.
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LibraryThing member nicx27
This is the fourth in the Jackson Brodie series of books by Kate Atkinson. Like the others, the storyline seems fairly random, but is actually all linked in some way. This one has three main strands: one is Jackson Brodie, private investigator, looking for answers for one of his clients; the second
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is Tracy Waterhouse, former policewoman turned security boss, who makes a very unusual and unexpected purchase one day in the shopping centre where she works; and the third is seemingly unrelated Tilly, an actress suffering from the early effects of dementia.

Kate Atkinson brings these stories together very well. She has a caustic humour to her writing, which she lends to her characters, and which made me chuckle on several occasions. She has also written excellent characterisations in a child and a dog in this novel.

This is very much what I would expect from this author and this series, and I wasn't disappointed. I hope that she continues the series, and continues to think up unusual stories and intriguing characters.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
This is the fourth novel featuring Jackson Brodie, a 50-year-old semi-retired private investigator who conjures up Kojak, for those readers old enough to remember him. [Kojak was an American television series airing from 1973 to 1978 starring Telly Savalas as Kojak, an older, attractive, charming
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detective - seemingly bumbling and incompetent, but although slow to see the light, eventually solving crimes because of his stubborn tenacity and willingness to bend the rules.]

This book is replete with plot conventions readers of Atkinson have come to admire and expect: stream of consciousness narration by a bevy of eventually interconnected characters; bemused and amusing contemplation of life’s quirkiness; a tribute to the ineluctable hand of fate determined, ironically, by accident and coincidence; myriad parallel plot themes mirroring one another as they crisscross through the story; and characters that serve as Greek choruses, drawing all the disparate themes together and anchoring them to a common ground.

The story begins with an abandoned child in 1975 found by two members of the police, including a female cop, Tracy Waterhouse, looking into a murder. This story alternates with the present day, and Jackson Brodie’s search for the birth parents of an adopted woman from New Zealand. We also follow what has happened to Tracy, who is now, like Jackson, also fifty, and like Jackson, searching for the meaning of her life. Jackson calls himself “an old dog looking for a new kennel.” Instead, he gets a new dog.

In the course of the story, we also revisit characters from previous books whose lives still intersect with Brodie in new ways. There are a great many characters and differing points of view, but because they are all interrelated, the story is not at all hard to follow.

Some of the mirrored themes in this story include:

Kids given no names
Kids given false names
Kids told to take other names
Kids whose parentage is unknown
Kids rescued from abuse
Kids who bring out caring and protectiveness in adults

Dogs with unsatisfactory names
Dogs whose ownership is unknown
Dogs rescued from abuse
Dogs who bring out caring and protectiveness in adults

Women who can’t have kids
Women who aborted kids
Women who want kids
Women who steal kids

Missing kids
Missing siblings
Kids who don’t know they have siblings
Missing parents
Missing minds

Jackson Brodie (Jackson B.) hired by a woman to find her family
Brian Jackson (B. Jackson) hired by a man to find the same family

Greek Choruses:

Tilly losing her mind
Courtney’s waving her wand

Favorite passage:

"Fiction had never been Jackson’s thing. Facts seemed challenging enough without making stuff up. What he discovered was that the great novels of the world were about three things – death, money and sex. Occasionally a whale.”

Evaluation: This is my least favorite of the four Brodie novels, but that doesn’t by any means indicate that I didn’t like it. Atkinson is a wonderful writer.
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LibraryThing member shearon
If you enjoyed the first three Jackson Brodie books, I suggest you read this one “to complete the set”. In my opinion it is not nearly as interesting as Case Histories or When Will There Be Good News but it is classic Atkinson with surprising twists of plot and unexpected humor. I did not find
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the characters as complex as the earlier volumes, but definitely an interesting cast.

I have read that Atkinson says this might be her last Jackson Brodie novel, a least for a while. That is probably good because I think the character is getting a little tired, as was this reader. Jackson was very contemplative and philosophical throughout this one, perhaps settling down in Edinburgh is his next chapter.
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LibraryThing member thorold
A bit disappointing: yet another story dealing with the consequences of a crime in the long distant back-story, in this case providing an excuse to have a go at the inadequacies of British police methods in the seventies: hardly an original target, even if it's one that deserves nearly everything
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that's thrown at it. Attacking the police for being corrupt and incompetent thirty years ago is almost as trite as attacking the city fathers of Leeds for architectural vandalism. Oh, wait a minute - she does that too. Where Atkinson's Edinburgh stories played around with the conventions established by the likes of Ian Rankin and subverted them in original ways, this one could almost be a straightforward Dalziel and Pascoe story.

Ex-DI Tracy Waterhouse is an interesting character in her own right, but she isn't quite enough to carry the novel; the pursuit-plot involving Jackson Brodie and a mysterious doppelgänger feels rather routine, especially in the way it takes us round the standard coach-party highlights of Yorkshire. Given the amount of barefaced product-placement for Betty's, I'm almost surprised the book didn't come with a free packet of Taylor's tea and a slice of Yorkshire curd tart. It's a measure of Atkinson's desperation with the story that she didn't even remember to kill off the dog.

To be fair, it's a very good, thoughtful crime story by anyone else's standards. There are intriguing parallels between the front and back stories, there's some clever misdirection, and plenty of witty lines. The thumbnail sketch of the awful TV cop-show several of the characters are employed on is also very neat. Worth reading if you don't know Atkinson's work, but a let-down if you do.
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LibraryThing member DubaiReader

After a very slow start, where I found myself constantly annoyed by the superfluous 'thoughts' and snide comments in italics and brackets, I did manage to complete this book. I can't say I enjoyed it though. I have read all the Jackson Brodie novels and I seem to be enjoying each less that its
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Well, Jackson Brodie is back, searching for the identity of his latest client, and as sarcastic as ever. We also meet Tracy, an ex-cop and now security guard who is haunted by an event in the 70's which seems to keep rearing its ugly head. She does something early on in the book that has huge importance to the narrative but is never explained at the end - most infuriating. There is Tilly, an elderly actress, slipping into dementia, who could easily have been dispensed with, and another character with a similar name to Brodie (why?). Brodie, his namesake and Tracy seem to rush around aimlessly, crashing into, and bouncing off each other in a rather meaningless impersonation of the chaos theory.

Sorry, but I shan't be bothering with Jackson Brodie 5.
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LibraryThing member MikeFinn
If there was a way of giving this book more than five stars, I would. It is breathtakingly good fiction.

It works as a satisfying crime novel and as a mainstream examination both of how we live with the consequences of the choices that we make and the mores and attitudes of Britain now and in
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The prose is beautiful. The voice of each character is distinct and believable. Time and place are evoked with an almost clinical clarity. The interior monologues, particularly that of "Silly Tilly" who is slipping into dementia are intimate, accurate and yet easy to read. The shifts along the timeline and between characters' point of view are well crafted so that the reader's understanding of the story and characters of the people evolves into something richly textured and authentic.

Despite the gritty nature of some of the themes and the gruesome start to the chain of events that the novel unravels, this remains an optimistic book that can make you laugh as easily as it can make you cry.

Perhaps it's because this book describes my own generation but I felt deep empathy with the newly retired police woman, coming to terms with the gap between what she wants and where her choices have taken her. Tilly's tale also stays in memory, not just because of the skilful way in which dementia is evoked but because of the betrayals and disappointments that she has endured. "The Kid" Coutrney/Lucy slices her way into the reader's heart with thumbs-ups and star hand waves and tiny trove of personal treasures that she lays out like an act of prayer.

The book is full of people who make the wrong decision or trust the wrong person and pay the price. It is a sign of Kate Atkinson's skill that we come to understand and empathise with these people rather than judging them

The back of the book tells me that this is the fourth book featuring Jackson Brodie. but my lack of knowledge of the previous books didn't mar my enjoyment of this one. Jackson is a curious character, a lightning-rod for strange events that he reacts to with remarkable passivity. A man who would like insight into himself but can only find it in the words of his ex-wife. A man who is surprised to find that the company of a dog is good for the soul.

This was my first Kate Akinson book, but it certainly won't be my last.
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LibraryThing member Tid
Jackson Brodie has left Scotland, and returned to his native Yorkshire. Or rather, his unwilling search for the real roots of a New Zealand woman who was adopted as a child (and who hasn't accepted Jackson's 'retirement'), plus his haphazard attempt to trace his faithless and conning ex-wife Tessa,
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have brought him back there - to its towns, its glorious countryside, its ruined abbeys ... and its murky recent past.

Walking through a park, he witnesses casual acts of cruelty towards a dog, leading him kidnap it with menaces towards its lager lout of an owner. For the remainder of the novel, Jackson is saddled with the "dog" of the title.

Tracy Waterhouse, retired cop, single woman, and now unfulfilled security chief of a modern shopping centre, performs a rescue act even more daring, and even more out of character.

These two events are simply the prelude to a chain of cause and effect that slowly unravels a 35-year-old murder mystery, uncovers some incidents that the Leeds police (or some at least), would prefer stay buried, and leads to the discovery of the true identity of various children that lie at the heart of the mystery.

This is a superbly plotted, inimitably told tale - the latest in the short but welcome series featuring Kate Atkinson's rather luckless and accident-prone detective Jackson Brodie. It would spoil the intricately woven plot to reveal any more about the nature of the events at the heart of this book, but it is (sadly we understand) a worthy sign-off (but only for now?) of this most engaging of characters.

It is a story of secrets that lie buried for too long, of the search for identity, of the use and abuse of 'women of the street', and the sturdy resilience of children in the face of brutally overwhelming odds. It dances around the terrible murders committed by the man known forever as the Yorkshire Ripper, and convincingly summons up the shape of urban and suburban life in the mid-1970s.

As we have come to expect from Kate Atkinson, the narrative is vivid and engaging, the characters beautifully drawn, and the dialogue never less than natural. Her love of language, so eloquently displayed in her first three novels and short stories, is tempered a little in the Brodie books, but it is still there, and this is a very satisfying read. And not every last loose end is tied up - there is a hint that something is left open (not, I trust, a vain hope?) to pursue in a subsequent tale.
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LibraryThing member bsquaredinoz
STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG isn’t a nicely linear tale with a recognisable beginning, middle and end. Nor is it, as a whole, quite believable given its abundance of coincidences (or absence of nails). But neither of these things prevent it from being an absolute delight to read and yet more
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evidence, should it be needed, that rules are often at their best when broken.

To attempt to summarise the novel’s plot would be an exercise in futility but I’ll pick out a few of its elements to whet your appetite. Jackson Brodie is a former soldier, former cop and retired private detective but not everyone, least of all Brodie himself, really grasps that he’s no longer in the detecting business. So he finds himself looking for the person Hope McMaster was before being adopted at age two and taken to New Zealand. Tracy Waterhouse is working in private security after 30 years as a Yorkshire cop when one day she spots a woman dragging a young child cruelly through a shopping centre and takes a rash, out-of-character action that forever changes her life. When she was just starting out as a cop in the 1970′s Tracy responded to a call-out where the body of a young woman who’d been dead for several weeks was found in a flat; along with her still alive young child. This event continues to influence Tracy and some of her colleagues many years later.

Atkinson is a brilliant observer, able to show the full gamut of human experience and emotion. When she is bitingly funny, which is often, she ensures we are laughing at our collective selves such as when Brodie contemplates the technological marvels of the last fifty years

In the half-century of his life, a tick on the Doomsday clock, he had borne witness to the most unbelievable technological advances. He had started off listening to an old Bush radio in the corner of the living room and now he had a phone in his hand on which he could pretend to throw a scrunched-up piece of paper into a waste bin. The world had waited a long time for that.

Haven’t we just? Just as often though she can be achingly poignant such as with her depiction of Tilly, an ageing actress whose character in a long-running series is to be killed off partly because Tilly, beginning to experience the first, terrifying signs of dementia, can’t remember her lines. Her plight will make you laugh and weep, occasionally at the same moment.

The book is full of wonderful characters whether they have small roles or larger ones and it is to Atkinson’s credit that though he is central to the book Jackson Brodie doesn’t overwhelm it. There is Barry, Tracy’s former partner who attended that long ago call-out with her and who is now suffering the most heart-aching family crisis. Or Courtenay, the young child who Tracy encounters in that shopping centre, who clings to the remnants of her fairy costume long after it’s lost its lustre and who answers “it’s the colour of the sky” when asked what colour grey is. Sob.

In short STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG is the perfect package of exquisite writing, richly drawn characters, incisive humour and a plot that is impossible to explain yet surprisingly easy to follow. Best of all and despite its many sadnesses it is ultimately joyful, leaving me happier at the end than I was at the start
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LibraryThing member dsc73277
In my view this is the best so far in Atkinson's series featuring ex-soldier, ex-cop, and ex-husband (twice) Jackson Brodie. It is the one that has the most to say about what I describe as "the way we live now", living in a bankrupt country (not strictly true, yet) that seems, in common with much
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of the world, to have lost its way. Brodie has himself been stumbling around for years, never staying anywhere long, and never able to fully come to terms with his sister's murder when they were both teenagers. In this installment he returns to his native Yorkshire tyring to trace the family of a women emigrated to New Zealand as a child in the care of her adopted parents. In doing so, he opens quite a Pandora's box with significant consequences for a number of West Yorkshire police officers, a retired officer now working in shopping mall security, and an ageing actress with a failing mind and career. Leeds is as central to this novel as Edinburgh is to the Rebus books, although whereas Ian Rankin seems to do no harm to most outsiders prevailing image of Edinburgh as one of Britain's most "liveable" cities, one cannot help but feel that this book only serves to reinforce negative ideas of Yorkshire's administrative centre, both now and in the 1970s.
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LibraryThing member smik
I feel a little guilty at having listened to an abridged version, but you know what they say about looking a gift horse in the mouth. My guilt stems particularly from the fact that I have an unabridged version on my Kindle.

I always wonder what the "abridgers" cut out in these versions, what have I
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missed out on?

However, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG.
I must admit I have come away without any idea what the title actually means (perhaps that was in a bit that was abridged).

The publisher's promo says

Kate Atkinson dovetails and counterpoints her plots with Dickensian brilliance in a tale peopled with unlikely heroes and villains.

This plot dovetailing takes the reader down paths that you just don't expect, leaving you second-guessing from sketchy clues. STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG spans from the mid 1970s when Tracy Waterhouse was just a WPC to the present day when she has just retired as a Superintendent and has taken a job supervising security in a shopping centre. Something that happens in the 70s reaches out and climbs into the 21st century with devastating results.
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LibraryThing member jayne_charles
You have to be a fab writer to get away with a clunky title like that. Fortunately Kate Atkinson is a fab writer. Her stories are always full of believable characters, the sort you could imagine treading the cobbles of Coronation Street, for example, and being fast-tracked to National Treasure
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status. It was interesting to look back after reading the first hundred and fifty pages and reflect on what had actually happened plot-wise. Very little. What had happened, though, was an enormous amount of sketching in of background detail which was never dull. The pages sped by. Who says there has to be drama on every page?

Picking out the plot from the background detail was a bit like trying to view a rural landscape after it had been blanketed in snow. Not always easy, but the snow itself was fun. The sort you could have a good snowball fight with. Not, as British Rail might put it, the wrong kind of snow. Even the smallest of bit-part players were described in a lively and engaging way. And the way Kate Atkinson conjured up the members-only/slightly world-weary attitude prevalent in the police force was quite impressive (that’s the way it always comes across on TV cop shows so it must be true.....)

On the debit side I’m always a bit irritated by Kate Atkinson’s habit of interrupting her own sentences with little bracketed asides, or fussy bits in inverted commas. At the start it seemed this habit had been edited out, but gradually they crept back in. On one page I think there were about ten. And on page 375 an aside is bracketed AND inverted comma’d. Wow. Also, was it me or was there a major plot strand left untied at the end? It could well be me. After all, it’s hard to tell under all that snow.
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LibraryThing member binadaat
She's on my "Kazuo Ishiguro or Authors To Avoid For Ever" List

this is the third book by Kate that I've attempted to read. Emotionally Weird, and Case Histories were the other two.

I kept an open mind, and honestly, just kept plowing ahead and read the book until he started to strangle the dog around
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page 50. Then I just tossed it on the floor and said," This is horrible. And she's British and she got him dog abusing! and before that, child abusing and selling, and I don't even know what this book is ABOUT, or WHO it's about, or WHEN it's taking place."

Main Characters

Writing Novels and short stories 101, anyone???

At least I didn't buy this book.

I'll never attempt to read her books again. Ever.
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LibraryThing member isigfethera
Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books all seem very multi-layered- weaving together different characters and different narratives leading to the eventual denouement. In 'Started Early, Took My Dog', I found it a bit too fragmented and disconnected at first, but by the end she had once again
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succeeded in pulling the threads together and creating an intriguing mystery and solution (with some red herrings thrown in for good measure). The slow beginnings give way to a sense of urgency by the end of the book in a satisfying way.
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LibraryThing member AJBraithwaite
Wonderful observations on contemporary British life - including the loss of Woolworths, the bankruptcy of the country and the depressing obsession with celebrity and with reality TV.

This, combined with a compelling story and two engaging main characters (not to mention the dog) make for a deeply
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satisfying read.

Can't recommend this highly enough.
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