Two years ago, Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News? had me spellbound, and I’ve looked forward to the next book – actually, the fourth in the series - featuring Jackson Brodie ever since. Now it has appeared, and I devoured Started Early, Took My Dog with great enthusiasm. Don’t be put off by the odd title – it is a terrific book.
It’s also book that is quite hard to sum up, zipping to and fro as it does between the 1970s and the present. The main scenes are set in Yorkshire, and the key element in the plot is child abduction. The main female protagonist, Tracy, succumbs to a sudden urge to take a small girl off the hands of her dreadful mother. Money changes hands, and at once Tracy, a retired detective, becomes a woman on the run.
Meanwhile, Jackson is investigating the antecedents of a woman whose past is shrouded in mystery. Whereas Tracy finds herself with a new child, Jackson contents himself with a dog. As the complex inter-relationship between events of the past and the present becomes more and more apparent, the mood darkens.
The story is told from several points of view – those of Jackson and Tracy are central, but there is also a perspective from an elderly actress whose mental faculties are deteriorating. It’s a complex mix, but and there is a large cast of characters, but this very funny and fascinating book kept me gripped from first to last.