Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
20 June, 2013
Started Early, Took My Dog is the fifth novel by Kate Atkinson featuring her grumpy private investigator Jackson Brodie with a personal life almost as complicated as his cases. In Jackson Brodie, Atkinson has created a deeply thoughtful character with all the flaws that would make any crime writer proud but with a vulnerable and moral edge that keeps everyone coming back for more. He pisses people off but never quite burns the bridge. However strained, his relationships with the women in his life are still there, especially with his much loved and sassy daughter Marlee.
Retired from the police, Tracy Waterhouse is in charge of security at a big shopping centre. When she comes across a local prostitute dragging a crying child in pink, Tracy ignites a series of events which will set her on the run and will bring back dark memories from her salad days as a young officer. For secrets can never remain uncovered when the guilt lays thick and the powerful grow old. When Jackson Brodie is contacted by Hope McAllister from New Zealand who wants to find her biological family, he soon realises that the adoption trail has been erased and leads him to the death of a prostitute almost 30 years ago and a missing child. What is the connection with Hope? And why is it so difficult for him to find the officer in charge who also happens to be Tracy?
Started Early, Took My Dog is seriously convoluted but ties up nicely. This makes it rather hard to summarise but will keep readers happy with the strange twists and turns that Atkinson is so skilled at in her novels. One of the things that makes Atkinson’s novels such a pleasure to read is the accessibility and immediacy of her stories. It’s current, it touches on just the right amount of pathos and despair of modern life; the banal, the outrageous and the criminal. But what elevates her writing is her characters. In Brodie’s fifth case, Atkinson takes her P.I. to a very dark place revisiting ancient wounds that have refused to heal and that have always directed his decisions in life and made him the man he is today. The rape and murder of his sister and the subsequent suicide of his brother have left their marks on him and makes him even more determined to bring justice to this world. For his sister’s death remains unsolved and will probably remain so.
There is always a touch of the familiar, the mundane, the incredible and the dark in her stories. And I raced through it to find out if Hope will discover who she really is. And to see whether Tracy will make it and whether her ex-colleagues in the police will be able to save their skins. For a grave injustice had been done and a dead woman calls out for justice.
I hurried to read this before I watched the second series of the tv adaptation starring Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie which begins with an episode based on Started Early, Took My Dog. I love the series, especially Jason Isaacs, but it does inevitably veer away from the books plus the other two episodes in the second series are completely new stories. So I recommend you read the books first and then tackle the adaptations after leaving a suitable enough gap for your recollection to dissipate.
And of course I can’t refrain from mentioning The Ambassador, Brodie’s new four-legged companion, whom he saves from a sadistic knob.