My grandmother and I share a certain affinity for good mystery novels. Sure, it may seem a bit odd for a granddaughter to give her grandmother a book with a body outline on the cover as a Christmas gift, but it’s perfectly natural to us.
So, imagine my delight when I happened upon Started Early, Took my Dog, by Kate Atkinson. With such a lovely cover, and high praise for its ‘literary’ author, I felt it was sure to be a win + win . . .
Of course, the title, alone, should have been my first clue. After all, it echoes Emily Dickinson’s poem:
I started early,
took my dog
Seems simple enough, though it’s anything but . . .
To begin, Atkinson’s novel deals with a myriad of characters, including: Tracy Waterhouse, a policewoman who rescues a child, Jackson Brodie, a private investigator who rescues a dog, and “Tillie,” an elderly actress who could use to be rescued.
Their stories unfold and intertwine in stream-of-consciousness style, jumping about in place and time, from person-to-person.
To my grandma, it made the book ‘strange;’ to me it made the book oddly intriguing. I say ‘oddly’ simply because I’m not usually drawn to such a writing style.
All in all, it made for a richer reading experience. When all was said and done, I realized I held within my hands a story of life and death, good and bad, right and wrong—and sometimes the difference between the two is not so very clear.
Perhaps Atkinson sums it up best, right within the pages of her own tale:
Jackson didn’t know what ‘it’ was, but that was the point, wasn’t it? That was what solving something was about, it was hunting the ‘it’ down, pinning its arms above its head and making it spill the beans. It was like being in a game, a game where you didn’t know the rules or the identity of the other players and where you were unsure of the goal.
That said, if you’re looking for a well written piece . . . for a mystery that’s a little something out of the ordinary . . . a story that keeps you guessing . . . that makes you stop and think . . . that demands a reread to catch all the nuances, then this may very well be the book for you.