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
Kate Atkinson has once again written one of the most interesting and touching novels I have been entertained by in a long time. Saving a child and a dog are only the tip of this tale which weaves its heartfelt story with well developed characters you care about even with their many flaws. A mystery, a love story, a story of redemption- I recommend this book whole heartedly.
Alpaca farmer, gardener, poet. Loves reading & listening to books, music, writing, and learning. Life is good!
I downloaded this book as a filler in until I got my next credits, and chose it strictly for its quirky title. (I never heard of the author.) I hoped it would be a good listen, and I wasn't disappointed. The characters are well formed and real, not ultra glamourous, as they have been in some of the books I've listened to recently. The plot held my interest throughout. It also had that real effect. It was a story that could plausibly happen to any of us, and kept me listening to find out how everything would turn out in the end. The narrator's British accent threw me off at first, only because I had to listen just a tad bit closer to understand the words. Once I got used to it, I found his voice smooth and delightful to listen to. I look forward to listening to another one of Ms. Atkinson's books. This one deserves all five stars.
I, as another review did, got this book on a whim, and because I liked the title. I'm a sucker for dog stories, and if the word "Dog" is in the title, I will definitely check it out. This story follows two people who have, through some buried, previously unaknowledged, unfulfilled desires, acquired dependents that alter the course of their lives. The first is a man, a detective, who becomes the owner of a small dog, a Border Terrier. The other is a woman, a retired policewoman, who - in action completely outside of her previous experience- impulisvely "buys" a 5 year old girl from a preoccupied prostitute. Both of these characters must learn to live with and care for their new charges, and while they do not know each other, their lives become entwined by the course of events both past and present. At the heart of this story is a murder mystery, the circumstances of which unfold, curling back into time as the lives of the two main charaters hurtle forward. Other characters appear and become entangled in the plot as well, and the whole thing becomes a giant soup of chance meetings and twisted connections that are just as strange as real life. I really enjoyed the ride this story took me on, and loved all the characters I encountered. The only thing I never learned, as all the loose ends tied up, was why the book was titled as it was. Still, it is great fun, and Graeme Malcom is a terrific reader.
Calling it a murder mystery really does an injustice to this story. The story is so complex and multi-layered, you won't be able to stop listening. The multiple plot lines weave and intersect the past with the present. It's not a casual listen, as you must be constantly alert to which time line and plot you are following. The characters are so well-developed and real, you feel like they could pop into reality at any second. This is a very enjoyable listed, and the narrator's accents add to the ambiance of the story. I'm going to search out some more books by this author and narrator.
I had a bit of trouble getting things straight at the beginning of this novel, but as the story progressed I couldn't stop listening (got a lot of dishes washed!). The narrator was fabulous - with subtle character differences and a dry tone that had me laugh out loud in places. I found the characters believable and -not appealing, really, but I could like them and have compassion for them. The little girl was worth the price of the book. A crazy scene at the climax of the plot, with enough denouement to give a good sense of closure. I bought it for the title, but will go back and listen again for the quality. Looking forward to "reading" more of Atkinson's work.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Wow! I was not expecting this. I thought this would be a cute little mystery. It turned out to be a complex book with a terrific plot and clever characters. The narrator is perfect for the book. I had to listen to it twice just so I could see how Kate Atkinson had pulled it off. Excellent use of a credit for me. Remarkably entertaining.
Kate Atkinson does a great job of combining the foibles of human behavior, irony, humor, all wrapped up in a mystery....couldn't be a better package. And the narrator, Mr. Malcolm does s superb job telling the story with a wry humor evident in his voice. A great pleasure, and I don't say that too often!
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.
The title of this book has a whimsical sound to it--kind of like a fun romp through the day with the pup. In fact, it is a story about normal lives that sometimes take tragic turns that make it impossible to go back no matter how much they might want to.
Don't get me wrong, though. Overall this was not a sad or depressing tale--but it could have been were it not for the expert subtle handling of each character by Kate Atkinson and the superb narration by Graeme Malcolm. Sometimes I actually laughed out loud.
I note other reviews that indicate "couldn't finish" or "hard to follow" and I agree this could be the case if you don't make an effort to pay attention early on. It gets much easier to put things together as it progresses--and you will be rewarded with some rich dialogue if you hang in there.
Sure there are a lot of people to keep straight--a Tracy, Tilly, Courtney, Jackson, another Jackson, Linda, Kitty, etc. They each have a role to play and are crucial to the outcome. If you liked this author's other works, I think you will like this one. Even though the detective has appeared in previous books, this is not really a series which must be read from the first. It might help, but not necessary.
Thoroughly enjoyed and recommended!
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.
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