Title: Started Early, Took My Dog
Author: Kate Atkinson
Release Date: March 21, 2011
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, Literary Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
Tracy Waterhouse is a former police superintendent who isn’t really enjoying retirement. When she sees someone she knew from her police days on a train, clutching the hand of a young child, she does the unthinkable on impulse and must deal with the consequences. Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, a private investigator, is investigating the past, trying to find out about his client’s true beginnings. And finally, there’s Tilly, an elderly former actress who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. How are these people connected, and what are each of them searching for?
Kate Atkinson is a talented writer, and Started Early, Took My Dog, her fourth novel starring private investigator Jackson Brodie, showcases that from the very beginning. Her novels are billed as mysteries, but they barely fall into that category. Yes, there are always mystery-style plotlines running under Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels, but these are very much literary reads, with thought-provoking questions and surprising plot twists around every turn.
Started Early, Took My Dog is written in a unique, almost stream-of-consciousness style. There are random observations and details inserted into the novel, so readers must puzzle over them to determine which are relevant and which are not. It makes for an engaging read, to be sure, but some readers may become frustrated by the narrative style. Additionally, the novel jumps in time periods and among narrators quite frequently, which can make it difficult to follow the story. It’s gorgeously told, to be sure, but it’s a read that takes a bit of effort.
There are many characters in Started Early, Took My Dog, and the character list just keeps expanding as the novel progresses. As a result, it’s a novel you’ll want to read slowly—but not too slowly, as you don’t want to forget about the connections between characters. Atkinson writes believable, sympathetic characters in each of her novels. Tracy is not your average heroine; she’s older and overweight, and generally just frazzled. Her impulse is understandable, but it’s shocking (to both the reader and Tracy herself) that she actually acts on it. Meanwhile, it’s always nice to revisit with Jackson. If you’ve never read any previous novels about him, you won’t be missing anything, but Atkinson takes care with his character and makes sure to develop him further in this book.
Kate Atkinson appeals to a particular sort of reader: the type that doesn’t mind a bit of work in their reads, especially when they know the author will deliver a payoff at the end. That is exactly Kate Atkinson; these aren’t books you’ll want to read in one sitting, but rather books you’ll want to savor, piece by piece, to ensure you don’t miss some small clue. If you’re looking for a quick, easy read, this probably isn’t the book for you, but for fans of literary fiction, especially mysteries, Kate Atkinson is a must-read author.
Other books by Kate Atkinson: