Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recently read Emotionally Weird by the author and was slightly put off by reading anything else. I am glad I did not base all of her work solely on that book, I enjoyed When Will be There be Good News and decided to venture back into life with Jackson Brodie. I was unsure of his character in that book, but now this book has filled much more of the back story and I have grown to love such a character who seems to operate outside of everything not just the law.

Jackson is going on a tour of the country, in main to catch up with his second wife who tricked him and he fell for it. Pride is an issue for Jackson. Also he is reliving some of his past, and through the Yorkshire countryside, visiting places he had been in his childhood he starts to understand the importance of his future that lies with the children he has fathered. His narrative takes us through his past and what he is currently working on – a case of finding Hope McMaster’s real birth mother, but everywhere he goes someone has been before him and there is also some on his tail. How come he is not always first? And why did he make a rash decision and take on something that was not his, when he can barely look after himself.

The narrative of Tracey Waterhouse is alongside Jackson’s as an ex WPC at the time of a murder which dropped off the radar in the mid seventies when all focus was on catching the Yorkshire Ripper. A theme covered with detail by Kate Atkinson that you knew she had researched the subject enough to make it relevant to the time of the flashbacks without it taking focus off the actual murder that Tracey Waterhouse witnessed the aftermath of. Tracey now retired and working as a security guard in a shopping centre also makes a rash decision. And as her past comes back to her and the seemingly solved murder in the seventies seems more relevant, she goes on the run. Did she really know anything?

Tracey’s rash decision is witnessed by Tilly an aging actress who is obviously caught up in the beginnings of dementia. Tilly sees but does not understand what Tracey has done, if anything wrong at all. But then Tilly is linked to them all in some way and we see her unravel as Jackson tries to bring all the pieces of thread together.

Atkinson uses the skill of three strong characters to tell the story not just in the present but in the past as well. The past for all of them. The other characters which also intertwine so seamlessly are all relevant and the passages set in the Seventies, have a Gene Hunt, Sweeney edge to them, especially with the comradeship and workings of the police force. The author does not miss the opportunity to mention these modern day images within the context of the story line.

I confess it takes me a while to get into Atkinson’s books and I stick with it because once I am in the story I just need to keep turning the page to find out how it all comes together. This book was no different, but it did not take me long to become captured by the plot line as it effectively went from the Seventies back to the present day picking up and dropping people as it needed them. What surprised me was the humour within the book; it is there and if like me you were captured, the humour just bounced off the page and me laugh. It kept the story real especially and reminded me despite the outcome of the murder, the police and their colleagues the social workers and even the people they deal with, in this book namely a number of prostitutes have their own way of dealing with events and emotions.

Definitely a different sort of crime novel, not your average detective novel – no goody and baddy with the other one the victim. A novel with many layers, and not necessarily ones where the truth is going to be made clear to all, including the reader. The result is not always what we want and perhaps in reflection, I could have wanted more from this story – a neat wrapping up of all the unravel threads. Not so, because life is not like that and Atkinson does a very good job of making us the reader  think whether the result she writes about is the right one legally or perhaps morally.

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