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Editorial Reviews

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
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Publisher's Summary

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
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Patricia on 08-28-11


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!

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Sara on 12-18-15

A Bittersweet Beauty

Well this is the sort of book that will keep you up listening way too late at night and most likely making sure you have pockets to hold the player as you go about your day. I listened almost nonstop. I have loved each book in this four book series. Maybe this last installment being my favorite. Just know that each book fits together perfectly, building upon the last and snapping together--each as a piece in a large jigsaw puzzle.

Much of this story takes place in Yorkshire. It was an added treat for me as I have rented the National Trust house for a week years ago at Fountains Abbey where some of the action takes place. To me, Atkinson captured that location beautifully, it was like being there again.

Be aware that Atkinson tackles difficult topics in this book--which becomes a time bending look at people at risk in society and those meant to help. Police, private investigators,social service, actresses, children and dogs all play vital roles.

This is the last book in the series (so far) and I know Atkinson has been interviewed about the possibility of a fifth book and she has said no. While I would love to hear more from Jackson Brodie and hope she continues, I can understand. If I view the series as a whole--seeing the puzzle picture as I stand back--I think I can fill in the missing bits. It all makes sense.

I am so glad I stumbled on Atkinson and her writing. She is a gem. This is a series not to be missed if you love complex literate mysteries with depth. Fantastic.

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32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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