Kate Atkinson turned her hand to detective fiction over a decade ago following the success of her first novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Since then, the wonderfully crafted private detective Jackson Brodie has been well received, recently making his debut on Twitter. Started Early, Took My Dog is the fourth instalment, it examines a series of seemingly unrelated characters, including security guard Tracy Waterhouse, ageing actress Tilly and, of course, Brodie himself.
The plot is intriguing and engaging, seamlessly integrating missing children, murdered prostitutes, police conspiracies and family dramas. The narrative flicks between the present-day and the 1970s, as Jackson Brodie searches the country for Hope McMaster’s biological family, while simultaneously, in Leeds, Tracy indulges in an impulse purchase: a little girl from a local prostitute.
There are wonderful parallels throughout this novel – a private investigator followed by another private investigator, children going missing while others are found, along with several characters learning to care for another for the very first time. However, the sheer number of characters can be overwhelming and, alongside the complex plot, this makes for a difficult read at times.
This novel is certainly bleak and sometimes overly weary, but Atkinson’s wry humour and accurate depiction of society makes it an enjoyable if challenging read. With many questions still unanswered, a sequel is surely on its way but, until then, a BBC adaptation of Case Histories is due later this year.
Started Early, Took My Dog is published by The Random House Group and is available for £7.19 (paperback)