Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Started Early, Took My Dog.

A friend mentioned Kate Atkinson to me while we were having breakfast a few weeks back. He asked if I had read anything by her and I had not.  He said he was reading a book she wrote and liked it a lot. So, I went to the library and picked up Started Early, Took My Dog.  I knew nothing about it except the author had been recommended and it was a paperback. The latter fact was key since I was taking it in a suitcase for a trip that would involve a long plane ride.

I really liked this book.  There are some caveats but it was so well written and the characters--nearly always--well fleshed out.

It's a mystery.  In a nutshell (without giving away much): A woman police officer and her partner discover a dead body in an apartment.  A child who is alive is also in the apartment.  The story fast forwards forty years. The woman police officer is now retired making some extra money as a shopping mall cop arresting shop lifters.  A series of events take place that reminds the cop of the murder scene forty years prior.  The story--bouncing back and forth from 1975 to the present-- unravels the mystery of that death in April of 1975.

I mentioned the caveats.  There are a number.  (a) At least two key strings of the story are not tied up at the end.  One just needs to be, unless it is the author's intent to write a sequel--even so we should know more about Courtney before this book concludes.  (b) It is completely implausible that Jackson will bump into Tracy in the way he does. Yes, there are coincidences but that is ridickalus.  Also highly unlikely that two detectives will have such common names and related purposes. (c) The story is extraordinarily complex.  I had to keep going back to remind myself of who was who and what happened when.  In a way this was very clever by the author, dropping a character in who you might think was peripheral and then finding out that she or he was not.  However, this is not the kind of book you can start on a Sunday and pick up the following weekend. You will just forget who is who. I had a return long plane ride during which I could begin the book and so I read a whole bunch in one sitting--still I had to keep going back.

Okay that is the bad news. The good news is that the writing is engaging, the characters--for the most part--real and well developed.  In a way I liked the development of the peripheral characters because after a while you did not know who was important and who wasn't so trying to figure out who did it was like trying to figure out a case if you were a detective. Who knows what matters and what does not.

When I finished, I read up on the author and found that a main character in Started Early, Took My Dog is in three previous books by Atkinson.  I think some of the references to events in this novel are events that took place in the prior books.  It is an indication of how much I liked Started Early, Took My Dog, that I immediately went looking for the first in the series when I got done.  I just, moments ago, took it out of the university library.  Not sure I want to get into Atkinson's wild world again right now having just emerged from it, but it will be a book I will read not too far down the road.

Bottom line. Don't read this unless you are flying to Timbuktu, or are on vacation, or retired. You just have to read it in a few days otherwise, you will almost have to reread the whole book to remember who is who.  However, if you do like to read, and have time, and don't mind that some parts are not tied up neatly at the end, Started Early, Took My Dog, is a fun ride.

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