Tracy Waterhouse, a retired police detective leading a quiet life, makes a snap decision to relieve habitual offender Kelly Cross of a young child he's been dragging around town. 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, detective Jackson Brodie embarks on a different sort of rescue--that of an abused dog.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
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
Kids who don’t know they have siblings
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
Tilly losing her mind
Courtney’s waving her wand
"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.
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.
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 predecessor.
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.
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 1975.
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.
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.
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.
It’s something I can’t quite put my finger on. Something about the compelling plot, the parallel storylines that intersect in the most interesting ways, something about the deeply flawed and very human characters…something about Atkinson’s writing style that makes me keep reading “just one more page” until finally the story is finished and I have to wait for her next book.
“Started Early, Took My Dog” was such a delicious read - this mystery and these characters was so well done. And now I enter the waiting game again.