Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie Series #4)

( 105 )

Overview

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 ...

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Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie Series #4)

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Kevin Allman
…complicated, elegant and completely satisfying…Atkinson's dark wit and mastery at sketching connections—between people, places, times, things, emotions—are reminiscent of Ruth Rendell, and Atkinson shares that grand master's facility in balancing cynicism, compassion and pragmatism. The result is crime fiction that's also splendid modern literature.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…[Atkinson's] books cannot be simply read. They must also be wrestled with, and that's where much of the fun lies…Ms. Atkinson remains a wonderful stylist and Grade A schemer…
—The New York Times
Alison McCulloch
The Brodie novels are twisting, turning, tangled narratives that leap from decade to decade, character to character, with the secrets playing second fiddle to Atkinson's sad and funny studies in human nature.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
British author Atkinson's magnificently plotted fourth novel featuring Jackson Brodie (after When Will There Be Good News?) takes the "semi-retired" PI back to his Yorkshire hometown to trace the biological parents of Hope McMasters, a woman adopted by a couple in the 1970s at age two. Jackson is faced with more questions than answers when Hope's parents aren't in any database nor is her adoption on record. In the author's signature multilayered style, she shifts between past and present, interweaving the stories of Tracy Waterhouse, a recently retired detective superintendent now in charge of security at a Leeds mall, and aging actress Tilly Squires. On the same day that Jackson and Tilly are in the mall, Tracy makes a snap decision that will have lasting consequences for everyone. Atkinson injects wit even in the bleakest moments—such as Jackson's newfound appreciation for poetry, evoked in the Emily Dickinson–inspired title—yet never loses her razor-sharp edge. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Jackson Brodie returns in Atkinson's fourth novel (Case Histories; One Good Turn; When Will There Be Good News?) featuring the former policeman. Jackson (semiretired at 50) is doing some private detective work and trying to come to grips with his personal life, which includes a teenage daughter from his first marriage, a son with a former lover, and a second wife who stole his savings. Jackson adds a small dog to the mix by rescuing it from its abusive owner as he undertakes an "innocent" request from a woman in Australia: Could Jackson help her find her birth parents in England? In this literary mystery on the theme of missing children, nothing is innocent or simple. The intricate narrative, composed with deftness and humor, moves among scenes set alternately in 1975 and the present and contains a cast of well-drawn characters whose relationships unfold like the layers of a peeled onion. VERDICT This book will not disappoint Atkinson and Jackson Brodie fans, but it might be a stretch for some readers to keep up with the multifaceted plot, though it is well worth the effort. [Five-city author tour; see Prepub Alert, 12/13/10.]—Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH
Kirkus Reviews

British private detective Jackson Brodie, star of three previous Atkinson novels (When Will There Be Good News, 2008, etc.), finds himself embroiled in a case which shows that defining crime is sometimes as difficult as solving it.

Tracy Waterhouse, who is middle-aged, overweight and lonely, heads security for a mall in Leeds. Retired from the local police force, she remains haunted by one of her earliest cases, when she and her partner found a little boy abandoned in the apartment where his mother had been murdered days earlier. Although the murderer was supposedly found (but died before being brought to trial), Tracy never learned what happened to the child with whom she'd formed a quick bond. When Tracy sees a known prostitute/lowlife mistreating her child at the mall, she impulsively offers to buy the child, and the woman takes the money and runs. Tracy knows she has technically broken the law and even suspects the woman might not be the real mother, but her protective instinct and growing love for the little girl named Courtney overrides common sense; she begins arrangements to flee Leeds and start a new life with the child. Meanwhile, Jackson has come to Leeds on his own case. Raised and living in Australia, adoptee Hope McMaster wants information about her birth parents, who supposedly died in a car crash in Leeds 30 years ago. As he pursues the case, Jackson considers his relationships with his own kids—a troublesome teenage daughter from his first marriage and a young son whom DNA tests have recently proved he fathered with a former lover. Jackson's search and Tracy's quest intertwine as Jackson's questions make the Leeds police force increasingly nervous. It becomes clear that the 1975 murder case Tracy worked on is far from solved and has had lasting repercussions.

The sleuthing is less important than Atkinson's fascinating take on the philosophic and emotional dimensions of her characters' lives.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Started Early, Took My Dog is Kate Atkinson's seventh novel and the fourth to star private eye Jackson Brodie, survivor of a tragic childhood and much hapless love; seeker of lost people; and champion of the powerless. Melancholy, rueful, and obstinate, Jackson is one of the most appealing sleuths ever to tread the pages of a crime thriller, an appeal now sharpened by his new-found affinity for Emily Dickinson and heightened beyond all resisting by his having acquired a dog. Rescued by Jackson from an abusive yobbo, it is a little terrier, exuberant and joyously doggy one moment, thoughtful and attentive the next.

Turning from this excellent creature to the plot we find a superbly ingenious construction composed of the meshed repercussions of hidden crimes and cruelties, and a gradually revealed arabesque of intertwined lives. The book begins in 1975 in Leeds with the discovery of a starving child and the body of a murdered woman in a locked apartment. Called to the scene is Tracy Waterman, a solidly built policewoman, and her partner, Ken Arkwright, "a stout white Yorkshireman with a heart of lard." But no sooner is this event introduced, than the action sheers off, first to Jackson finishing off his last caper six months ago, and then on to the present where we find Tracy Waterman again, now in her 50s, retired from the police force and working as head of security at a down-market shopping mall. Surveying the commercialized ugliness of the place and the unhappy people who frequent it, she reflects, "All human life was here. Britain -- shoplifting capital of Europe."

Tracy's thwarted maternal instincts come to a boil as she observes an enraged woman, Kelly Cross, "prostitute, druggie, thief, all-around pikey," yelling into a cell phone while dragging a screaming little girl along at brutal speed. Inundated by "despair and frustration as she contemplated the blank but already soiled canvas of the kid's future," Tracy is seized by an impulse. "One moment she was…contemplating the human wreckage that was Kelly Cross, the next she was saying, 'How much?'" She flashes 3,000 euros she has just withdrawn from the bank. It's enough for Kelly, who grabs the money and drops the girl's hand. Tracy has just bought a child.

Tracy and her new charge set off in search of a new life -- pursued, soon enough, by mysterious trackers with, it would seem, evil intentions. So begins one extraordinary strain of the story. Another proceeds from the addled point of view of Tilly, a superannuated actress drifting in and out of senility. She has been playing the mother of the macho star of a TV soap opera, a role created to make the man seem "more human."  But she has recently learned that her character is going to be killed off very soon, presumably because she can't get her lines down. This is only the beginning of the woes that fill Tilly's old head, all of them merging together, impressionistically, almost poetically, in her befuddlement.

The third major strand of the story proceeds from Brodie's point of view as he pursues a new assignment: finding the natural parents of a woman living in New Zealand who was adopted in England as a child. Although a few other characters contribute threads of consciousness to the narrative, Tracy's, Tilly's, and Jackson's points of view carry the story along, each accompanied by tart observations on the degraded condition of England and nostalgic laments for her vanished past: "No more half-day closing," reflects Tilly, contemplating the tawdry activity of the shopping mall through which Kelly is dragging her child. "Everything open all the time now, getting and spending we lay waste our powers. And where had all the money gone? You go to sleep living in a prosperous country and you wake up in a poor one, how did that happen?"

The novel is immensely exciting and very funny, even with all the sadness and badness it encompasses; and it is supremely devious in execution. Atkinson deploys past and present storylines in a pincer movement, marshalling seemingly miscellaneous actions and events into a coherent picture, one in which each character plays an often unwitting part. Atkinson really has no peer in the deftness with which she pulls this off; and it is a trick that goes beyond technique. As characters belonging to one narrative strand suddenly pop up in another, a surreal mood creeps into the novel. Indeed, these surprise involvements and coincidences begin to seem like evidence of an underlying current in the world, of some invisible struggle between good and evil, one in which the innocent are at once the most vulnerable and the most potent. This mood, which has a tincture of Arthurian romance about it, is an amalgam of whimsy and irony, and is uniquely Atkinson's.

The result is an intoxicating read. As the suspense and action intensify, as everything and everyone come hurtling together in the last pages, this particular reader was completely swept away by an exhilarating mix of dread and hilarity.

--Katherine A. Powers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316066747
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/6/2011
  • Series: Jackson Brodie Series , #4
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 155,098
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995, and was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World, Case Histories, One Good Turn, and When Will There Be Good News?.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 105 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(35)

4 Star

(35)

3 Star

(18)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(10)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 105 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Started Early, Don't Want to End!

    Kate Atkinson's new book will leave you wanting more, positively! She's a wordsmith with a story that insists that we make moral choices we'd rather ignore.

    One of her primary protagonists, Tracy, an otherwise "hard-nosed" member of the police force ...handling sexual offences, vice, human trafficking, and just about anything nobody else wanted to... is retired and wondering what to do with her life! Shopping on an afternoon at the local shopping center, she watches as an old druggie she recognizes from her days on the force, Kelly, appears to be dragging a tiny little girl and screaming at her. Tracy is drawn into the fray by instinct and curiousity. She follows Kelly, continuing to observe as she kicks at the child, screams at her to stop singing, dragging her through the crowds and down the street.

    Since Tracy knows Kelly's other children have already been taken away from her, and that she obviously isn't "clean," she wonders what the freakish woman is doing with this little girl! When all is said and done, Tracy offers Kelly a chunk of money to "buy" the child from her. Kelly's eyes are wide with greed. The transaction is made...the child's hand is transferred to Tracy's, and Kelly rides off into the sunset on the local bus. However, not before she mouths something like, "But she's not....." And Tracy is left wondering what she's done...helped or kidnapped a child! A child who instantly become one she can't bring herself to part with!

    Thus, begins this novel from the pen of Kate Atkinson. With a menagerie of lush, loveable characters complete with their particular idiosyncracies that only serve to make them more endearing, she has us captured from the get-go. Not only does she give us the quintessential darling, little urchin, but she also includes a scrappy little dog that was rescued from a snarling, abusive hood! Attention given not just to description but also to the quirkiness of inner thoughts and dialog; as well as to bucolic surroundings makes for a great deal of this author's genius. Plus, I wonder how she could have made the tension knot up inside me over that scruffy mutt!

    Ms Atkinson seasons her novel with wit, perfect timing and a humor that will catch you off-guard when you least expect it. I found myself laughing and smiling often as I read this book. While she is astute and serious about her main and parallel storylines, and there is much to learn here with regard to morality and choices, her subtle, silver-handed delivery with its tinge of the obsurd is unique to her style. It's no wonder that she has won awards for her previous work.

    Jackson Brodie, the soul searching, former private detective of "Started Early, Took My Dog," is a character featured in others of her books. His odd relationship with his ex-wife throughout the story is so charming. It has the qualilty both to madden and sustain him, making it a sadistic little treasure for the reader to enjoy in and of itself! I need to read more about him, absolutely.

    Kate Atkinson is a writer of exceptional quality. I highly recommend reading her newest book, "Started Early, Took My Dog." It's an enjoyable read that goes well with a glass of wine, some Respighi (Ancient Dances and Airs Suite 2..) on low, and a comfy chair...sophisticated and easy on the heart.

    Highly recommended without reservation.

    Deborah/TheBookishDame

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    A book that I COULD put down

    Too many plot lines, too many characters, too much redundancy...by the middle of this novel I was completely frustrated by the lack of focus and every character's flashbacks. It felt like the author was throwing in every kind of writing style so people could think she was cutting edge. In any event, I found it messy and for the first time in a very long time, I stopped reading a book halfway through.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Thanks, PBS.

    I didn't know Kate Atkinson until I watched "Case Histories" on our PBS station. Since then, I've read all of the Jackson Brodie series. This book, "Started Early, Took My Dog", was a little different from the first three.

    For one thing, Jackson Brodie is not always the main focus. I like the fact that other interesting characters, some repeating from the other books, are filled out in this book. Some are left hanging, as is his propective love interest. Maybe Louise which come out in future books.

    After watching the "Case Histories" pieces on PBS, which combined stories from the first three books, I was glad not knowing how the story would probably end. [You know how television writers like to change things.]

    I hope Ms. Atkinson continues with Jackson Brodie. He sounds like someone I would like to know better.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Atkinson captures personalities in a phrase--loved it

    Kate Atkinson outdoes herself in this new novel featuring Jackson Brodie, private detective. He's back in England, doing some desultory checking on the parentage of a woman living overseas who had been orphaned in the 1970s. The story is braided with several threads, i.e., an aging actress suffering from dementia, a young child heavy "as a small planet," and several other retired police. Atkinson handles it masterfully, bringing it all to a neat knot in a train station. This is bad news for Brodie, as he has a nasty history with trains. The trenchant sense of humor for which Atkinson is known is on display and she describes with clear-eyed compassion and humor our ridiculous, and sometimes hideous, human condition. Motives and choices, the bobs and weaves of persons doing wrong, all have the ring of truth, as do the intentions and interventions of well-meaning, over-worked coppers on the beat. Set in Leeds, the story gives one a distinct sense of cold, cruel, rough, and distrusting. One wonders how anyone gets out of there with their psyche intact. Perhaps they don't, the author seems to say.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    Enagages your heart and brain!

    Started Early, Took My Dog continues the saga of the perennially unlucky Jackson Brodie. No longer a police officer, no longer really a private detective, Jackson nonetheless roams the countryside looking for lost women. When he lands a rare client she is one of these lost women - her birth certificate comes up a fake, her biological parents don't exist and her adoptive parents are both dead. Who is this woman and why has her history been erased? As Jackson stumbles through his investigation he unexpectedly picks up a dog, The Ambassador, and still loses women left and right. It seems all he has to do is contact a female for her to disappear. He'll have to get ahold of one of them if he hopes to find any answers, but how? Meanwhile Tracy Waterhouse, a retired police officer, has had all the disappearances she can take. Determined to save one child from its fated course she will literally stop at nothing.

    I absolutely love the Jackson Brodie series and each book is better than the last. Jackson is his usual fumbling, luckless, but well meaning and loveable self. He is still grappling with the long ago loss of his sister and seems fixated on finding lost women and children, even his fraudulent ex-wife. He manages to keep his dry and very funny sense of humor throughout his trials and I couldn't help but be entertained by the bad spots he gets himself into. As usual, what starts as a tangled ball of story lines neatly unravels to a single strand in the end. Kate Atkinson's writing is so sophisticated and sharp that these mysteries are elevated well above the norm. The characters are so realistic and human that you can't help but relate to them and love them despite their flaws. I only hope I get to read more about Tracy Waterhouse and Courtney in the next Jackson Brodie book. A true literary mystery, Started Early, Took My Dog is for anyone looking for a page turner that will engage your heart and your brain.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2011

    Atkinson scores again

    I love Kate Atkinson's books because they mirror real life in such wonderful fashion: the weird, the fantastical, the tragic, the whimsical, all rolled into a beautiful literary package. Started Early, Took My Dog is no exception, and I was immediately captivated by Tracy Waterhouse and her story. Atkinson has such a wonderful eye for the tiniest of details--a child making "starfish hands" as she sings, the annoyed sigh of a very patient dog in a rucksack--that mesh with plot lines that collide in the most improbable (and frequently quite satisfying ways). Definitely an enjoyable read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2011

    Yes, lots of characters...

    ... but that is what is fun about this book. You meet these interesting people who initially seem unrelated, and their stories gradually fuse into one in surprising ways. A lot of fun!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2012

    Great detective novel with literary allusions sprinkled deftly thoughout, with a good dog thrown in too

    Great dective novel with literary allusions sprinked deftly throughout.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    Atkinson has become my favorite novelist. I had never heard of her until Time magazine picked "Started Early...." as a best of 2011.

    I'm reading my third novel by Kate Atkinson. She has a unique style,keeping the reader guessing as she ties together the seemingly totally unrelated pieces.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    grest Great fun

    I dont know why anyone wd think this series is slow. I find myself reading hurriedly because so much is in question. The author is British so u have to get her wit. I think she is great.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2013

    Started Early, Took My Dog is the fourth book in the Jackson Bro

    Started Early, Took My Dog is the fourth book in the Jackson Brodie series by popular British author, Kate Atkinson. Set some two years after When Will There Be Good News, Jackson is wandering around England, looking for his fake wife, Tessa, and researching the real parents of a New Zealand adoptee, Hope McMaster. At the same time, ex-cop Tracy Waterhouse finds herself buying a toddler from a prostitute, while ageing actress Tilly Squires slowly sinks into dementia. As Jackson follows leads to dead ends, he finds a doppelganger is treading the same paths, and stumbles into a thirty-year-old crime. This instalment has a great cast of characters, including crooked cops, retired social workers, prostitutes, actors, children and a dog. Jackson manages to rescue a dog, be followed, beaten up, have his dog bugged, his car stolen and end up hogtied in a rubbish skip. As always, the dialogue is snappy and Atkinson’s strength is her characters’ inner monologues: “Jackson tried to remember why but the tiny people who resentfully ran his memory these days (fetching and carrying folders, checking the contents against index cards, filing them away in boxes that were then placed on endless rows of grey metal Dexion shelving never to be found again) had, in an all too frequent occurrence, mislaid that particular piece of information” and “Ravaged by acne, if you knew Braille you could probably have read his face” and “Schrodinger, whoever he was, and his cat, and anyone else that felt like it, had all climbed inside Pandora’s box and were dining on a can of worms”. There are lots of literary quotes, misquotes, bits of poetry and jokes. The plot, as always, is original and keeps twisting and turning to the very end. While it is not essential to have read the earlier books of this series, this book does contain spoilers for earlier books, so it doesn’t hurt to read them in order. Once again, Atkinson provides a brilliant read and one can only hope there will be more of Jackson Brodie. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Great detective series

    Jackson Brodie is now a private detective. He cares very deeply about the people he helps, but he is somewhat naive and easily waylaid by those very people I really enjoy the way Kate Atkinson writes. She has created a sympathetic character in Jackson, flawed though he is, you find yourself rooting for him to be successful not only in the cases he handles, but in his personal life as well...he does better on his cases. A smart, sometimes funny, somtimes sad , but always interesting character and the series about him is worth your time

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2011

    Not her best

    I've loved all the books in the Jackson Brody series so far but this was unfortunately not as exciting as the first 3. It took awhile to get interested in what was going on and at that point I enjoyed the story but then it ended and it seemed like some questions weren't answered, dont want to spoil for anyone but it had to do with Tracy's storyline. Maybe that was the point, let us decide for ourselves, but in this case I'd have rather known than make it up in my mind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    Kate does it again!!

    Another fun intriguing read from the mistress of interlocking stories. Loved it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2011

    Surprisingly good

    A good read--contains lots of subtle humor. I've never seen a dog frown before, either.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

    do n ot waste your time

    I thought it was horrible.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Terrible Book

    This book so far is awful. So far I am on page 45 and I'm not sure if I can go any further. It just seems all over the place. Don't waste your money. If you must read wait until it comes out at your local library or better yet someone is giving it away at a yard sale. It's a painful read, not interesting at all.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    ok storyline....

    good story but hard to find it

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    Did not get to page 100....

    This book was awful, and for me....that is saying something. If you want to give it a try, good luck.

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014

    Started Early, Took My Dog

    This is another Jackson Brodie mystery. This mystery is filled with missing persons, flashbacks to the 1970s in England, and Jackson always thinking about his dead older sister and his ex-wives and his childen. You are still guessing almost to the end how all the mysteries are solved. Reading the last couple of pages won't help.

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