I have been very impressed by novels written by Kate Atkinson, so I was pleased when our book group chose Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel, as it moved another of her books to the top of my to-read list. In this book, private detective Jackson Brodie makes his fourth appearance. After our lively discussion, I feel the need also to read One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News?, as some of the other members have. These Brodie stories and Case Histories connect to Started Early, Took My Dog, which leaves some issues unresolved. Will there be more Brodie books?
There are many characters in Started Early, Took My Dog. Some of us resorted to making lists to keep them straight, especially all of the policemen. In our discussion, we debated what roles, if any, some really played in the story. One of us always found a reason for fringe characters, even Tilly the actress. We talked about how Atkinson assembles a cast in ways similar to Agatha Christie and the producers of Downton Abbey and then devises parallel developments in characters' lives.
One of our questions was whether Started Early, Took My Dog is a literary novel or a mystery? I'd say both. Why do we have to choose? I enjoy Atkinson's sense of humor and ability to use lines of poetry in telling her story. Some of the situations in which the characters find themselves are both comic and dramatic. That seems literary to me. At the same time, I was always concerned with the uncovering of the mystery, more so than in some books labeled mysteries.
Whatever, Started Early, Took My Dog is good reading that makes me want more. If you have not yet, also try Life After Life.
Atkinson, Kate. Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel. Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 371p. ISBN 9780316066730.