Started Early, Took My Dog is Kate Atkinson's fourth installment of the Jackson Brodie series. Jackson is a country music loving , semi-retired British private investigator. As this story begins he is pondering his state of affairs--he's approaching middle age without much direction. The women in his life have done him wrong and he feels estranged from his teenage daughter. And his financial affairs are a bit rocky. To help his cash flow, Jackon reluctantly agrees to help a cheerful young New Zealand woman find her birth parents in the UK. What should be a straight forward case is anything but. Meanwhile, Tracy, a lonely retired police woman who's seen the worse of human beings, acts on impulse and "buys" a child from a dreadful woman who is openly abusing the child in public. Then there is Tilly an aging soap opera star who is suffering from the advancing stages of dementia. Atkinson's description of Tilly's disintegration is spot on and quite moving. These story lines eventually intersect/intertwine as is the case in Atkinson's other Brodie books. The conclusion seemed predictable, but Atkinson generally provides a red herring and this book is no exception. Atkinson's characters are quirky, but not bizarre. The dialogue is often witty and humorous despite some very serious, dark issues. She counter balances the worst of human behavior with the best--the end result is not oppressive. I have read all of the Brodie series except One Good Turn and I plan to back up and read that one. I think this is a excellent series and hope Jackson Brodie returns. Incidentally, the title of the book is adapted from an Emily Dickinson poem that starts with this line.
May 11, 2011