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
I have e read and or listened to all of Kate Atkinson books and I am hooked.
They're amazing and I love the characters. Her books will make you laugh ,cry and prevent you from getting anything done. I could not put this one down.
I cannot wait for her next book. I love them all.
Took a chance on this one and was left dissatisfied. This story really drags and never fleshes out the characters I can only assume were introduced in previous books. I thought the part with the aging actress was very thoughtful and that is the only bit that I'm sorry I didn't hear finish, even if I'm not sure how it pertains to the story. Sorry, ya lost me.
I always look forward to Kate Atkinson's most recent Jackson Brody mystery, and each one is better than the last.
It makes me terribly sad to give a Jackson Brodie novel by Kate Atkinson less than 5 stars, but the narrator nearly ruined it for me. His voice did not change for any of the characters, nor did his pitch or inflection ever vary from a near monotone. I gave up listening and went to my local bookstore to buy the hard copy, which was wonderful (although not as good as When Will There Be Good News? or One Good Turn). I can't imagine why the publisher went with a narrator other than Ellen Archer, who read WWTBGN. She was spectacular. Graeme Malcolm wasn't. Kate Atkinson does lovely plot twists and I really like what she has been doing with Jackson and his delayed cultural growth--reading poetry, going to museums, attending the theatre. I did miss the tension between Jackson and Louise, so I am hoping that the end of this book is not just a tease.
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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