Friday, 22 April 2011

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson


DATE READ: March 2011

NOTES: Another great (if somewhat confusing!) read from Kate Atkinson. A complex story set in two different time scales and from the point of view of lots of characters. The plot cannot be encapsulated easily. In 1975 a prostitute is found murdered in her flat. One of the officers attending is Tracy Waterhouse. We then move on to the present day when Tracy, now a retired police inspector, buys a child from a know drug-user. On the same day Jackson Brodie takes possession of an abused dog. A doddery ageing actress, Tilly, loses her purse in the shopping mall. Jackson is trying to help Hope (who lives in New Zealand) to find her real family but some people seem to be deliberately blocking his way. More confusion abounds when another detective appears – also called Jackson.

We have an incredible mix of lost parents, lost children and sad memories. There are murdered relatives, aborted babies, lost loves, road deaths, police corruption and a dramatic funeral. But the whole is infused with Atkinson’s joyful language and energetic pace. Some of the best bits are when Tracy tries to be a parent to Courtney – very much an unknown territory for her. Tracy was surprised that more kids weren’t killed on so-called play equipment. People (parents) seemed blithely oblivious to the peril of small bodies arcing high into the sky on swings they weren’t strapped into, or of the same small bodies launching themselves from the top of a slide when they were knee-high to a gnat. Courtney was astonishingly reckless, a kid without a reck was a dangerous thing.

I enjoyed it very much although I wasn’t always sure if I was keeping up with the plot. There were a few loose ends (or was it me?) And I did wonder about the brilliant abilities of the ex-gangster Harry Reynolds. No request seemed too much for him and he deserves a book of his own!

(The Yorkshire Ripper has worked his way into the social and cultural fabric of the 1970s and 80s. The references here are not at all gratuitous but does Sutcliffe know – and does it give him pleasure?)

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