Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Started Early, Took My Dog

Started Early, Took My Dog
Jackson Brodie #4
By Kate Atkinson
Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books 2011
371 pages
From my shelves 

Started Early, Took My Dog

Jackson Brodie is back again in this fourth book from Kate Atkinson. He is still shaken by recent events and uses his newest case - trying to track down a woman's birth parents - to try to find his no good wife who swindled him out of his fortune. While Brodie traverses the countryside, Tracy Waterhouse makes an impulsive choice. As a former cop with ties to the case Brodie is investigating, Tracy knows better than to make emotional decisions. While she began the day with only plans for her upcoming vacation, she ends it with a little girl in tow. As always, Atkinson masterfully weaves together these disparate plots into one quiet and insightful story about secrets and taking care of the people we love.

As you start reading any of the books in this series, you may wonder how in the world these very dissimilar stories will come together. Some readers protest that Atkinson pushes the boundaries of what could actually happen. For the first time since starting this series, I had that feeling while reading Started Early, Took My Dog. The thing I really could not get over was a scene in the opening pages of the book. *SPOILER* Tracy Waterhouse, a mall security guard and former policewoman, pays a known druggie for a little girl she assumes is her abused daughter. Tracy tells us how she has seen this woman in several drug busts and that she is actually dragging the girl through the mall by one arm as she screams. I'm not doubting Tracy's desire to help the little girl, but I can't wrap my head around a former policewoman buying a child. *END SPOILER* 

As the book progressed, the worlds of Jackson Brodie and Tracy Waterhouse began to collide. But I was left scratching my head about another character. Tilly is an elderly actress who is playing a bit role on a TV show and suffering from the beginnings of dementia. While Atkinson creates a tragic and beautiful look into the mind of someone who is slowly losing all sense of herself, I kept trying to figure out how she was going to fit into the tapestry of characters. It isn't until the very end of the book that Tilly plays a pivotal role in the story, entirely by chance. I think this bothered me because I'm used to Atkinson connecting characters in deep and unexpected ways. This felt like she needed someone for this one moment and then wrote backwards, so she would have a backstory.

The characters in this book are looking back on their lives. Jackson has gone through several careers and is trying to decide what he wants to do with the rest of his life. He can't stop himself from thinking of his murdered sister and the women he has loved and lost. Tracy is looking to the end of her career and wondering what you do when the work is done, but you have no one to go home to. All of the characters are dealing with the feeling that as much as things change, so much stays the same. This is especially seen in the storylines of the various cases that are presented, as the strong continue to prey on the weak.

Started Early, Took My Dog continues Atkinson's tradition of imbuing Jackson Brodie and his companions with all the foibles and joys of humanity. The mysteries are intriguing, but the heart of this novel lives with the characters. While this isn't my favorite of the bunch, it's a great book and I will be interested to see if Jackson Brodie will make a return in another book. 


  1. These sound like really complex mystery stories. I've never heard of the series before, but it definitely sounds like something I'd like!

    1. They are called a series, but they are quite loosely connected. Jackson Brodie appears in all of them but he usually splits the time with at least one other main character.
      Hope you enjoy them - the first one is Case Histories.