Saturday, August 27, 2011

Started Early, Took My Dog

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown & Company, March 2011
Advanced Reading Copy, 385 pages
Jackson Brodie Series #4
ISBN-13: 9780316066730

Tracy 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.

My Thoughts:
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson is her fourth novel featuring private eye Jackson Brodie. This novel explores hidden crimes all connected to the 1975 murder of a prostitute in Leeds. It appears to be another victim of the Yorkshire Ripper, but appearances can be deceiving. And what happened to her child, found starving in the apartment along with the body of the presumed mother.
Started Early, Took My Dog has multiple narratives following several characters in the past and present. These narratives include Tracy Waterman, currently a retired policewoman, who was one of the investigating officers in 1975. But Tracy has her own issues. She inexplicably finds herself buying a young child from her mother, an abusive prostitute. She sets out to create a new life for her and her new daughter.
Recurring character Jackson has now rescued a dog (a border terrier) while searching for the real parentage of an adopted woman currently living in New Zealand. Another character, Tilly, is an aging senile actress. Additional characters are part of the police force, many now retired.
As the story progresses, coincidences seem to be something more than happenstance. Eventually all the characters from the various narrative strands start to come together. Started Early, Took My Dog is a clever, well written book, but it also requires your complete attention and focus to follow the various narrative threads. (I'm not sure I was completely up to the task and reading it over a week wasn't helpful in that area. Taking the time to finish it in one sitting today was very helpful, though.
Highly Recommended if you can give it your complete attention (and maybe read it in a shorter time span.)

1975: April 9
Leeds: “Motorway City of the Seventies.” A proud slogan. No irony intended. Gaslight still flickering on some streets. Life in a northern town.  opening
Her stomach rumbled like a train. She’d been on the cottage cheese and grapefruit diet for a week. Wondered if you could starve to death while you were still overweight.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Arkwright gasped, bending over and resting his hands on his knees when they finally achieved the fifteenth floor. “I used to be a rugby wing forward, believe it or not.”

“Ay, well, you’re just an old, fat bloke now,” Tracy said. “What number?”

“Twenty-five. It’s at the end.”

A neighbor had phoned in anonymously about a bad smell (“a right stink”) coming from the flat.

“Dead rats, probably,” Arkwright said. “Or a cat. Remember those two dogs in that house in Chapeltown? Oh no, before your time, lass.”

“I heard about it. Bloke went off and left them without any food. They ate each other in the end.”

“They didn’t eat each other,” Arkwright said. “One of them ate the other one.”

“You’re a bloody pedant, Arkwright.”

“A what? Cheeky so-and-so. Ey up, here we go. Fuck a duck, Trace, you can smell it from here.”

Tracy Waterhouse pressed her thumb on the doorbell and kept it there. Glanced down at her ugly police-issue regulation black lace-ups and wiggled her toes inside her ugly police-issue regulation black tights. Her big toe had gone right through the hole in the tights now and a ladder was climbing up toward one of her big footballer’s knees. “It’ll be some old bloke who’s been lying here for weeks,” she said. “I bloody hate them.”

“I hate train jumpers.”

“Dead kiddies.”

“Yeah. They’re the worst,” Arkwright agreed. Dead children were trumps, every time.

Tracy took her thumb off the doorbell and tried turning the door handle. Locked. “Ah, Jesus, Arkwright, it’s humming in there. Something that’s not about to get up and walk away, that’s for sure.”

Arkwright banged on the door and shouted, “Hello, it’s the police here, is anyone in there? Shit, Tracy, can you hear that?”


Ken Arkwright bent down and looked through the letter box. “Oh, Christ—” He recoiled from the letter box so quickly that Tracy’s first thought was that someone had squirted something into his eyes. It had happened to a sergeant a few weeks ago, a nutter with a Squeezy washing-up bottle full of bleach. It had put everyone off looking through letter boxes. Arkwright, however, immediately squatted down and pushed open the letter box again and started talking soothingly, the way you would to a nervy dog. “It’s OK, it’s OK, everything’s OK now. Is Mummy there? Or your daddy? We’re going to help you. It’s OK.” He stood and got ready to shoulder the door. Pawed the ground, blew air out of his mouth and said to Tracy, “Prepare yourself, lass, it’s not going to be pretty.”  pg. -6


Jeanne said...

Hmm. I keep meaning to get back to this author. Some of the quotations here are amusing!

Lori L said...

It was amusing! I'll keep an eye open for your review should you decide to read it.