Hard-boiled with a heart of gold what more do you want in a private eye? But Jackson Brodie, in Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog, is no stereotypical gumshoe. For one thing, the Yorkshireman reads Emily Dickinson, quoted in the novel’s title. A recurrent character in previous Atkinson novels, Brodie here shares a plot with the equally compelling Tracy Waterhouse, a retired Police Superintendent turned mall cop.
Atkinson’s wonderfully woven tale features more complex and credible characters than are often found in the murder mystery genre. And narrator Graeme Malcolm realizes them with pitch-perfect, understated brio befitting the grief, longing, jadedness, and cautious joy they variously express. While the characters all possess been-around-the block, self-mocking voices, Malcolm, while making each personality distinct, conveys the raw and secret sorrow that’s within them all underneath the cynicism.
Early in the story, Tracy acts on a radical impulse. Middle-aged and single, she takes a child actually purchases one from a criminal and abusive mother. Handing the mother a wad of cash intended for home renovations in exchange for a bedraggled 4-year-old girl, Tracy begins a fugitive life, instantly, unsentimentally mothering on the fly. She’s pursued, but not, as she assumes, for kidnapping, but because years earlier she investigated the murder of a prostitute before superiors took the case from her. That case featured the first of the novel’s many ‘lost children’: the prostitute’s son.
This same crime draws Brodie’s interest on behalf of a client seeking her biological mother. Forever haunted by the murder of his sister when he was a child, Brodie is aware of his penchant for lost girls and the women they have become, both professionally and in his failed marriages.
Meanwhile, there is a third central character, the elderly, increasingly senile actress, Tilly Squires, playing her last role on a TV soap and still mourning the baby she aborted decades ago, while under the spell of a rival actress ‘friend’. Malcolm movingly and without melodrama takes us afloat her streams of consciousness and stumblings for elusive words and wallets.
Atkinson’s plot threads back and forth between the 1970s and the present; Malcolm agilely indicates time changes with the subtlest of pauses and inflections. Shepherding us through the unraveling of the mystery, he lets us experience the palpable sense Atkinson conveys of the profound, unremitting consequences born of an abandoned or neglected child. But in the end, we also feel, as Dickinson notes, that hope can be “heard it in the chillest land, and on the strangest sea”. Elly Schull Meeks
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 unpunished.
©2010 Kate Atkinson (P)2011 Hachette Audio
There aren't many books I would care to listen to again, but long before it was over - I knew I'd want to hear it again.
The stories of the characters are unraveled and re-woven with subtle twists that allow you to be come a secret witness to events and inside participant to the story!
The narrator's voice was perfect pairing to the author's tone of understated humor & intelligence in the story telling.
Kudos to Tilly! I will miss her the most.
Addicted to Audible!
I enjoyed, Case Studies,however, after that one I have found Ms. Atkinson's later books a bit hard to follow. She has good concepts but somehow the stories seem to lose me after a while! I think this is the last one I will purchase.
An interesting tale, well told. It is part mystery, part romance in the classical sense, part sheer entertainment. Note that it is part of a continuing series by Kate Atkinson. Something I wished I knew before starting this one.
English major. Love to read
This is a good beach read, a book in between other great books to slow down but entertain the brain, or just one because you like interweaving tales. I haven't recommended it to a lot of friends which is the telling sentiment, but it still put a smile on my face.
This was an effective book. Complicated story, many characters to keep track of. Too much back story on almost everyone of them. However, in the end, Kate Atkinson delivered a credible tale of why a murder occurred years before, and why it was so effectively covered up until some of the investigators decided to look into it again. In addition to the mystery there is much examination of the pain resulting from bad decisions made among family members in a complex web of relationships.
Like mysteries, not much in to SciFi, hate vampire books. Like most all years of history.
Although I am an American and this book is very English, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The snappy and different writing style made me laugh several times. What I enjoyed the most was when the author wrote the character's thoughts as they popped into their heads in what was sometimes a connected yet somewhat scrambled fashion. Initially the title caught my eye. The pleasant surprise was that the writing was just as unique as the title.
I had never heard of Atkinson until I started listening to this book. Since this one, I have listened to all of her other books. I love her characters and quirky mysteries. One of the main characters in this book is overweight, a retired policewoman and friendless until she saves a little girl. But all does not turn out as expected. Tilly is another interesting character. Atkinson does a good job of putting the reader into the mind of a older woman suffering from dementia. And then came Jackson Brody. Jackson is not your usual hero either. I used to be a policeman seems to be his mantra as he is beaten up yet again.All of her books seem to revolve around relationships and loss. Jackson Brody is constantly trying to find a missing relative for someone. I love the way the author brings all these characters together in the strangest ways. I also love the little quotes from Emily Dickinson--the title comes from one of her poems. Atkinson left me wondering what will happen next and waiting for the next book. If you love well written, amusing, novels with great characters, a bit of mystery, set in Britain, buy her books.
I love the detective Jackson Brodie, a very flawed but engaging character who seems to pick up lost people and stray animals wherever he goes, and who courts personal disaster while somehow in the end helping all the people who need it most. And I love the interconnectedness of all the characters through time or space, and the way the reader must solve the detective story in order to understand the connections between all the characters.
Graeme Malcolm has a warm, melodic voice and all his performances are wonderful. His voice seems particularly beautiful for the undercurrent of melancholy and loss that runs through this book.
I found it very beautiful, and I didn't want it to end.
I enjoyed Case Histories show on PBS the last two years so decided on a whim to download When Will There Be Good News and was surprised at the depth the show had to leave out. I thoroughly enjoyed that book and was very impressed with that reader, so I downloaded the other two available titles in the series. I was really looking forward to this as it's the only one that would be completely new as the others were dramatized in the TV series. I don't know if this book is that much duller or if I don't react as well to the reader, but it was quite a let down. I'll probably try again soon to see if I was just not in the right mood or was too tired when I tried to listen.
did not keep my interest, seemed choppy, and I could not finish it. maybe if I tried again but for right now, no.
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