Summary and book reviews of Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog

A Novel

by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
BJ Nathan Hegedus

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About this Book

Book Summary

Tracy, a retired police detective, rescues a small child; Jackson Brodie, a detective, rescues an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished.

Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective - a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other - or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge.

Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue - that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished.

STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG
By Kate Atkinson

1975: April 9
Leeds: "Motorway City of the Seventies." A proud slogan. No irony intended. Gaslight still flickering on some streets. Life in a northern town.

The Bay City Rollers at number one. IRA bombs all over the country. Margaret Thatcher is the new leader of the Conservative Party. At the beginning of the month, in Albuquerque, Bill Gates founds what will become Microsoft. At the end of the month Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese army. The Black and White Minstrel Show is still on television, John Poulson is still in jail. Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye. In the middle of it all, Tracy Waterhouse was only concerned with the hole in one of the toes of her tights.

It was growing bigger with every step she took. They were new on this morning as well.

They had been told that it was on the fifteenth floor of the flats in Lovell Park and - of course - the lifts were broken. The two PCs huffed and puffed their way up the stairs...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. "For want of a nail the shoe was lost / For want of a shoe the horse was lost..." How do you think this traditional proverb, quoted by Kate Atkinson before the start of the novel, relates to what happens in Started Early, Took My Dog?

  2. Another epigraph quotes Peter Sutcliffe, suggesting that this novel was partly inspired by the 1970s Yorkshire Ripper. Are there any other true crime cases that come to mind that resonate with the stories in this book?

  3. A reviewer called this a "state of the nation novel - far sharper and more observant and satirically understanding than anything else out there at the moment." Do you agree, and if so, what did the novel reveal for you about Britain today?

  4. This is the fourth Jackson Brodie novel. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The prolific Kate Atkinson once again shows herself to be a master at crafting literary mystery with Started Early, Took My Dog. Unlike many mysteries, where the action is plot-driven (characters conveniently appear to carry things along), Kate Atkinson uses murder and mayhem to flesh out her characters and the dastardly crimes that define who they are and what they're capable of.   (Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

…[Atkinson's] books cannot be simply read. They must also be wrestled with, and that's where much of the fun lies… Ms. Atkinson remains a wonderful stylist and Grade A schemer…

The Washington Post - Kevin Allman

[C]omplicated, elegant and completely satisfying… Atkinson's dark wit and mastery at sketching connections - between people, places, times, things, emotions - are reminiscent of Ruth Rendell, and Atkinson shares that grand master's facility in balancing cynicism, compassion and pragmatism. The result is crime fiction that's also splendid modern literature.

Library Journal

This book will not disappoint Atkinson and Jackson Brodie fans, but it might be a stretch for some readers to keep up with the multifaceted plot, though it is well worth the effort.

Kirkus Reviews

The sleuthing is less important than Atkinson's fascinating take on the philosophic and emotional dimensions of her characters' lives.

Booklist

Starred Review. For its singular melding of radiant humor and dark deeds, this is must-reading for literary crime-fiction fans.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Atkinson injects wit even in the bleakest moments... yet never loses her razor-sharp edge.

Sunday Times (UK)

Crime has given Atkinson the freedom to write an ambitious, panoramic work, full of excitement, colour and compassion.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

a brilliant read
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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Decoding British Phrases

Does trying to decipher the meaning of British phrases make you raving bonkers? UK Flag Confused over all those acronyms used to identify British police officers? Do you find yourself reading and rereading certain sentences asking: What the heck does this mean? How is it that trainers don't seem to mind being tossed into a boot, and how do they fit in it anyway? Read on.

Police terms:

  • nicked: stolen
  • PC: Police Constable
  • WPC: Woman Police Constable
  • DC: Detective Constable
  • DS: Detective Sergeant
  • DI: Detective Inspector
  • DCI: Detective Chief Inspector
  • D Supt: Detective Superintendent
  • Guv: used to show deference when referring to one's superior whose rank is of inspector or greater, regardless of sex

Food:

  • chips: French fries
  • ...

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