On first seeing Kate Atkinson’s book Started Early, Took my Dog, I thought “comedy”, but I was wrong. It’s actually a thriller, albeit a witty one, featuring Jackson Brodie, a private eye whom she’s written about before. This time the story follows security chief Tracy Waterhouse, who buys something on the spur of the moment, this one moment of madness is all it takes for her humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn. Witnesses to Tracy’s Faustian exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and the aforementioned Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else’s roots.
All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished. Kate Atkinson dovetails and counterpoints her plots with Dickensian brilliance in a tale peopled with unlikely heroes and villains. “Started Early, Took My Dog” is freighted with wit, wisdom and a fierce moral intelligence.
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