…[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 New York Times
…complicated, elegant and completely satisfying…Atkinson's dark wit and mastery at sketching connectionsbetween people, places, times, things, emotionsare 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.
The Washington Post
British author Atkinson's magnificently plotted fourth novel featuring Jackson Brodie (after When Will There Be Good News?) takes the "semi-retired" PI back to his Yorkshire hometown to trace the biological parents of Hope McMasters, a woman adopted by a couple in the 1970s at age two. Jackson is faced with more questions than answers when Hope's parents aren't in any database nor is her adoption on record. In the author's signature multilayered style, she shifts between past and present, interweaving the stories of Tracy Waterhouse, a recently retired detective superintendent now in charge of security at a Leeds mall, and aging actress Tilly Squires. On the same day that Jackson and Tilly are in the mall, Tracy makes a snap decision that will have lasting consequences for everyone. Atkinson injects wit even in the bleakest moments—such as Jackson's newfound appreciation for poetry, evoked in the Emily Dickinson–inspired title—yet never loses her razor-sharp edge. (Mar.)
"Brilliant...Atkinson seamlessly weaves together [strands] in a plot driven by coincidence and a diamond-hard recognition of man's darker nature...[Tracy's] odyssey as a new parent to a waif dressed in a ragged fairy costume, relayed with both tenderness and wry wit, must be one of the grandest love affairs in crime fiction...For its singular melding of radiant humor and dark deeds, this is must-reading for literary crime-fiction fans."—Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist, starred review
"The sleuthing is less important than Atkinson's fascinating take on the philosophical and emotional dimensions of her characters' lives."—Kirkus
"[The Jackson Brodie books] are an entrancing hybrid of the literary novel/detective story. Case Histories...is a classic....Atkinson's views of contemporary society can be bleak, but she has an amazing eye for kids, dogs and human fallibility." —Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times
"Magnificently plotted...In the author's signature multilayered style, she shifts between past and present...Atkinson injects wit even in the bleakest moments...yet never loses her razor-sharp edge."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"I can't take my nose out of Kate Atkinson's new thriller, Started Early, Took My Dog."—Alex Beam, The Boston Globe
"Mixing wry wit and gritty realism, Atkinson deftly smudges the border between literary and detective fiction-with complex, compelling characters negotiating a maze of grisly violence, dark secrets, and shadowy dangers."—Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine
"Wonderful...full of artful digressions and unexpected turns, but it amply makes good on its obligations as a mystery novel to explain the who, what and why." —Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal
"Mold-breaking...Each one of these [Jackson Brodie] books, including this latest, is a delight: an intricate construction that assembles itself before the reader's eyes, populated by idiosyncratic, multidimensional characters and written with shrewd, mordant grace. They are in some respects mystery novels, but they're written with a literary skill uncommon in that genre, and in a mode the tragicomic that few but the most adept novelists can pull off in any genre."—Laura Miller, Salon
Ms. Atkinson writes passages that simply have to be read twice, once when you first travel through the book and then later, when you want to see just how she tricked you...Ms. Atkinson remains a wonderful stylist and Grade A schemer...She was never confined to the crime genre, has written in assorted other modes and excels at them all. Whatever she goes on to write, she leaves Jackson Brodie at a suspenseful and pivotal moment. Future installments are well worth waiting for." —Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Every time I hear Kate Atkinson has a new novel on the way, I'm filled with delight. I look forward to many authors' books with pleasure and interest, but Atkinson is such a virtuoso that my brain starts fizzing like a glass of bubbly even before I crack the covers. Started Early, Took My Dog does not disappoint...A witty, moving, suspenseful and always surprising story about the things we do for love...Atkinson's books stake out their own territory on the border between mysteries and literary fiction. There are crimes in this book...but Atkinson is just as concerned with crimes of the heart, and with the unexpected consequences of good intentions. She layers plot and time periods with consummate skill, creating novels that work like elegant jazz improvisations, taking us onto amazing yet believable paths that eventually weave together into an even more astonishing result...Atkinson, as always, brings something fresh to [themes as old as storytelling].—Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times
Jackson Brodie returns in Atkinson's fourth novel (Case Histories; One Good Turn; When Will There Be Good News?) featuring the former policeman. Jackson (semiretired at 50) is doing some private detective work and trying to come to grips with his personal life, which includes a teenage daughter from his first marriage, a son with a former lover, and a second wife who stole his savings. Jackson adds a small dog to the mix by rescuing it from its abusive owner as he undertakes an "innocent" request from a woman in Australia: Could Jackson help her find her birth parents in England? In this literary mystery on the theme of missing children, nothing is innocent or simple. The intricate narrative, composed with deftness and humor, moves among scenes set alternately in 1975 and the present and contains a cast of well-drawn characters whose relationships unfold like the layers of a peeled onion. VERDICT 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. [Five-city author tour; see Prepub Alert, 12/13/10.]—Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH
While Graeme Malcolm makes little effort to try to imitate the variety of memorable characters Atkinson gives him to work with, his narration is, nonetheless, sophisticated and nuanced. This is Atkinson’s fourth outing with the semiretired, terminally lonely P.I. Jackson Brodie. Here he is looking for the seemingly nonexistent biological parents of a grown woman, a search that eventually connects to another long-ago missing child, a murder, and a police cover-up. As narrator, Malcolm is at once detached and intimate. One by one, he seems to dissect each of the characters, revealing the wonder of Atkinson’s storytelling. M.O. © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine
British private detective Jackson Brodie, star of three previous Atkinson novels (When Will There Be Good News, 2008, etc.), finds himself embroiled in a case which shows that defining crime is sometimes as difficult as solving it.
Tracy Waterhouse, who is middle-aged, overweight and lonely, heads security for a mall in Leeds. Retired from the local police force, she remains haunted by one of her earliest cases, when she and her partner found a little boy abandoned in the apartment where his mother had been murdered days earlier. Although the murderer was supposedly found (but died before being brought to trial), Tracy never learned what happened to the child with whom she'd formed a quick bond. When Tracy sees a known prostitute/lowlife mistreating her child at the mall, she impulsively offers to buy the child, and the woman takes the money and runs. Tracy knows she has technically broken the law and even suspects the woman might not be the real mother, but her protective instinct and growing love for the little girl named Courtney overrides common sense; she begins arrangements to flee Leeds and start a new life with the child. Meanwhile, Jackson has come to Leeds on his own case. Raised and living in Australia, adoptee Hope McMaster wants information about her birth parents, who supposedly died in a car crash in Leeds 30 years ago. As he pursues the case, Jackson considers his relationships with his own kids—a troublesome teenage daughter from his first marriage and a young son whom DNA tests have recently proved he fathered with a former lover. Jackson's search and Tracy's quest intertwine as Jackson's questions make the Leeds police force increasingly nervous. It becomes clear that the 1975 murder case Tracy worked on is far from solved and has had lasting repercussions.
The sleuthing is less important than Atkinson's fascinating take on the philosophic and emotional dimensions of her characters' lives.