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

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

3.7 111
by Kate Atkinson

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It's a day like any other for Tracy Waterhouse, running errands at the local shopping center, until she makes a purchase she hadn't bargained for. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn.

Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange are Tilly, an

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It's a day like any other for Tracy Waterhouse, running errands at the local shopping center, until she makes a purchase she hadn't bargained for. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn.

Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie, who has returned to the land of his childhood, in search of someone else's roots. Variously accompanied, pursued, or haunted by neglected dogs, unwanted children, and keepers of dark secrets, soon all three will learn that the past is never history-and that no good deed goes unpunished.

Brimming with wit, wisdom, and a fierce moral intelligence, Started Early, Took My Dog confirms Kate Atkinson's status as one of the most original and entertaining writers of our time.

Editorial Reviews

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

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Jackson Brodie Series, #4
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

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Started Early, Took My Dog 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Humbee More than 1 year ago
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
fred5962 More than 1 year ago
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.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
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.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great dective novel with literary allusions sprinked deftly throughout.
Sandra Scofield More than 1 year ago
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.
Leslie Spooner More than 1 year ago
... 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!
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Wanda Broadhead More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
marie murray More than 1 year ago
Another fun intriguing read from the mistress of interlocking stories. Loved it
Zipcat More than 1 year ago
A good read--contains lots of subtle humor. I've never seen a dog frown before, either.
BlairsMum More than 1 year ago
Kate Atkinson is my favourite author. I am on a journey of reading all her books! This book was a bit convoluted, but if one stays with it, she unwinds all the mystery and makes the connections that tie it all together. Her characters are always interesting and I especially like the use of recurring characters who become very familiar and a delight to read about again...almost like old friends! I read all her books at least twice as they are so interesting and so very well written. I highly recommend it!!!!
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Take off your clothes he orders
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kate Atkinson is such an original voice. I've read 4 of her mysteries and also Life After Life. Enjoyed them all. The stories meander along but are well tied up by the conclusion. For me, it's the words I enjoy and the characters' side comments. Keep the Jackson novels coming, Kate. I'll keep reading them.
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