Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (New York: Reagan Arthur, 2011. 371 pp)
Kate Atkinson (b. 1591) is an English author. She won the Whitbread Book of the Year award for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her most recent novels, Case Histories, One Good Turn, and When Will There Be Good News?, feature her most renowned character Jackson Brodie. She lives in Scotland.
Psychological Crime Drama & Mystery
A fan of psychological crime drama, at least in regard to film, I rarely read the books of the same genre. That’s mainly because I enjoy the fast paced nature of film when it retells a story related to crime, partially because the mystery is always alive. In novels, however, I find mystery somewhat lacking. J.J. Abrams, director of the famed Lost television series famously stated in a TED talk,
“Mystery represents infinite possibility. It represents hope, it represents potential. Mystery is the catalyst for imagination. There are times where mystery is more important than knowledge.”
Character #1: Tracy Waterhouse
Newly retired from the police force, Tracy Waterhouse works at a shopping mall. She’s over 50, overweight, and unhappy.
“Tracy had retired with a shell so thick that there was hardly any room left inside. Vice, sexual offenses, human trafficking—the underbelly of Drugs and Major Crime—she’d seen it all and more. Witnessing the worst of human behavior was a pretty good way of killing off anything soft and fluffy” (16).
“Kelly Cross was the reason for the screaming child. No surprise there. Kelly Cross. Prostitute, druggie, thief, all-round pikey. A scad-end of a woman. Tracy knew her. Everyone knew her. Kelly had several kids, most of them in care and they were the lucky ones, which was saying something” (21).
Character #2: Tilly
“They’d brought Tilly in to play Vince Collier’s mother because they wanted to make the character ‘more human,’ more vulnerable. Tilly had worked before with the actor who played Vince Collier, when he was a teenager, and she kept calling him by his real name—Simon—instead of Vince. Seven takes today just to say good-be to him on a doorstep” (28).
Character #3: Jackson Brodie
“The dog was still cowering in the boot. He could hardly leave it there, so he picked it up and was surprised to find that it was warm even though it was shivering all over as if it were frozen…He turned round the tag on the dog’s collar so that he could read it. ‘Let’s see if you’ve got a name,’ he said. ‘The Ambassador?’ Jackson said, looking doubtfully at the small dog. ‘What kind of a name is that?’” (41).
The Characters Intertwined
Now, if you’ve ever read a Kate Atkinson novel before, you know that she has a penchant for connecting random characters in the most unusual of ways. Atkinson intertwines the characters in a tincture of romance, melancholy, and whimsy in a way that is near impossible to describe without providing a whole manuscript of the novel while ruining the mystery at the same time. The author employs both the past and present of the character’s lives as well as the crime scene of the 1970s to pull off a mind-bending plot line.
The peripeteia within Started Early, Took My Dog completely surprises, much like film genre of the psychological crime thriller. If you enjoy the type of movie that surprises, and enjoy mystery, Started Early, Took My Dog is assuredly for you.
Verdict: 4 out of 5