Sunday, 18 September 2011

Book #82 Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog

And so finally, I reach the fourth most recent Jackson Brodie novel 'Started Early, Took My Dog' a novel I wanted to read based on its title anyway, before I realised that it was the fourth in a series. It takes its title from a Dickinson poem.

Original novel Case Histories took place in Cambridge, and subsequent novels One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? in Edinburgh. The fourth novel moves us to Leeds, and this was rather fun for me as I lived in Leeds for three years and could picture many of the places exactly, I was particularly chuffed when he visited the abbeys of Jervaulx, Rievaulx, Fountains and Kirkstall given their connection to my life in Leeds.

Jackson has now formally returned to his life as a private eye, and as ever is involved in cases of "lost girls".

His client is New Zealand based Hope McMaster, who was adopted in Yorkshire in the 1970's and is looking to trace her birth family having grown up as an ex-pat.

Linked to Hope's history is former police officer Tracy Waterhouse a woman who whilst working a dull security post in the Merrion Centre, spots Kelly Cross, a figure notorious from Tracy's police days being abusive toward a small child. Upon impulse she offers Kelly money for the child and suddenly finds herself a criminal on the run.

The narrative flashes between Jackson's present day investigation and the 1970's around the time Hope would have been adopted, unfortunately the 1970's segment feels like an episode of BBC's Life On Mars without the time travel aspect and therefore very derivative, the young Tracy screams Annie Cartwright, whilst many of her superiors seem to be a poor mans Gene Hunt. This is the novels main weakness.

Tracy Waterhouse and her storyline is very identifiable and strong, how many people have ever seen a kid with terrible parents in public and wanted to intervene? It is also nice to see the easy friendly relationship which has developed between Jackson and Julia Land as he visits his son Nathan, now four.

Some later sections are messy, such as when Jackson drives about seemingly purposelessly with Tracy and Courtney. I was extremely bemused by the inclusion of character Tilly who has but a tenuous connection to Tracy and Julia Land, whose story has nought to do with the main sequence of events and seems to exist solely to take a thinly veiled pop at Helen Mirren. Or perhaps Judi Dench but personally I reckon Mirren. Bizarre. The Tilly sections are annoying and they take away from the story and Atkinson shouldn't have bothered including them.  

The unbelievable polarity of Amazon comments on this book are quite amusing. I think many didn't realise it was part of a series and there is one in particular who seemed to think the book would be about dogs. As a Brodie novel it is stronger than One Good Turn but perhaps not the other two. I enjoyed it despite its messy middle and personally, given the closing sentence I really, really hope there is a fifth Brodie novel, though I had heard that this was to be her last. I'm attached to this character partly through the novels and partly through the series and hope that this is not the case. Again a 7/10

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