Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

startedearlytookmydogI was recently very excited to see that there is going to be a new novel from Kate Atkinson published this year, having enjoyed her previous work. I adored Life After Life and its companion novel, A God In Ruins, as well as her debut, Behind The Scenes At The Museum. Amongst her previous novels are a series of books about Jackson Brodie, a former police detective. And so I felt the time was right to finally read one of them – and I had Started Early, Took My Dog on my TBR.

The first character we meet in this novel is Tracy Waterhouse. Tracy is a former police officer, now working as a security chief in a Yorkshire shopping centre. Tracy’s life is a relatively mundane one, spending her days watching the world go by, and looking back at her past. That is until a day arises which changes her life dramatically. She makes a surprising purchase which turns her world upside down, leading her to leave her job behind, having found herself in possession of a much bigger responsibility. The shocking transaction did not go unnoticed within the shopping centre, and her actions are witnessed by Tilly, an elderly actress who is getting increasingly more confused, along with Jackson Brodie, a detective who is in the middle of an investigation to track down a client’s relatives. Over the course of the novel, we hear from Tracy, Tilly and Jackson, with their individual stories being woven together, forming something far more complex…

I believe that this is the fourth book in the Jackson Brodie series, but despite not reading the previous books I didn’t feel I was missing out on too much. Whilst it is perhaps beneficial to have read the whole series I read this perfectly well as a standalone as there was plenty of background information provided to build up a picture of Jackson’s character. And there was plenty of depth provided for all of the characters and the complicated histories they carry with them. The story follows a non-linear narrative, so it switches back and forth through time and from different points of view. I must admit I did find it a little tricky at times to keep track of what was going on and found myself re-reading a few passages to make sure I understood the events. That aside I enjoyed the developing plot, and how the events from the past and present begin to merge together, with unresolved issues beginning to surface. What begins as a story of three people, and what happened one day a shopping centre, expands into so much more. And Atkinson packs so much depth into her characters and their histories which made for a compelling read.

There is a lot more to Started Early,Took My Dog, than it first seems. It is a story of one woman’s impulse purchase, and the impact it has on her life and that of those around her. It also looks back at the past, and a crime from the 1970’s which is far from resolved – one featuring unexplained deaths and police corruption amongst other issues. It is also a story about identity, and finding who we are, and how we can come to terms with the events of our past. And in the case of the three main characters, they are all trying to find their way in the face of varying challenges – whether it’s deteriorating health, being haunted by past memories, or by fighting for what is right in the face of opposition. And these factors make for an interesting story, as we follow these characters on their respective journeys, with Tilly and Tracy, and with Jackson Brodie – and his new found canine companion.

I enjoyed reading Started Early, Took My Dog and found it to be an intriguing and complex story. It is a crime mystery that keeps you guessing, and leaves you with plenty to think about long after the final page. It is a wonderfully written book that is intricately plotted with plenty of intrigue, emotion, and wit.

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