There’s nothing like a good witty book. It’s even better if the wit is also coupled with intelligent writing and complex characters, and that’s exactly what Kate Atkinson does in Started Early, Took My Dog.
Tracy, a cop who’s seen it all, is now retired and doesn’t know what to do with her life. She’s shopping one day at the mall, and sees an old druggie from her police days dragging a little girl with her and yelling the whole way. She feels sorry for the little girl and follows them both through the mall. Along the way, she wonders what Kelly, the druggie mom, will do with this kid, since all of her other kids have been taken away. On an impulse, she offers Kelly money to “buy” the child. Kelly agrees, greedily, and runs off. Tracy wonders what she’s just done.
Tracy and the little girl are just a host of several interesting characters that come to life in this seemly disconnected story of characters who all end up intertwined in each other’s lives. There’s Jackson Brodie, a former private detective, who saves the life of a dog destined for a very unhappy ending; Hope McMaster, who hires Jackson to find out the truth about her adoption; Tilly, an elderly actress who is witness to Kelly’s tirade at the mall; and a supporting cast of several others.
Tracy thinks that what she’s done is illegal, and makes plans to leave town and head to Leeds. Jackson’s investigative case also leads him to Leeds, looking for clues in the case of Hope’s adoption. The woman who was involved with Hope’s case, Linda, was also involved in a case that Tracy was involved in many years ago, and begins to catch up with her.
Atkinson’s story moves deftly between the past and the present, unfolding quietly as the book progresses. It’s a hard book to put down, as you’ll really want to know how all the loose ends tie up.