There are some books that are so engrossing, if you have the luxury to do so, you read them in one sitting. Or at least in a few sittings close together.
Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog is such a book. I opened it at 6 p.m. on Friday and read straight through, until after midnight. And I read as slowly as I could, just savoring the story, the characters and the twists in the plot. Her wit and talent are engaging to the extent I didn’t want it to end.
I don’t know which she is better at, plotting or characterization, because both are outstanding. I am torn between admiration and gratitude and bitter jealousy knowing I will never write anything as good.
There are a myriad of characters in her stories and every one has a role to play in the plot, sometimes minor and sometimes in a major way you never see coming. They all have a back story, told succinctly, some captured in a sentence. One snobbish woman was “…always rigged out ready for an impromptu invitation to lunch with the Queen.” Another minor character, a miserable, stingy B & B owner:
“Divorcee or widow? Widow, Jackson guessed, she had the look of someone who has successfully out-survived a sparring partner. Some women were destined for widowhood, marriage was just the obstacle in their way.”
The plot revolves around the missing, the stolen and the dead. Jackson Brodie, the protagonist of three previous novels, is a retired police officer, current private detective. Haunted by the long ago, unsolved murder of his teenage sister, he makes a career of finding the lost. Tracy is a middle aged, unhappy Security director, also a retired police officer, who in a mad moment rescues a screaming child from an abusive prostitute by buying her. Tillie is an elderly actress descending rapidly into senility. The actions of these people in present day are linked with past events, told in flashbacks. There is no one superfluous to the story line, everything connects. Although there is one tantalizing mystery left at the end.
Kate Atkinson’s other books featuring Jackson Brodie are Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will there Be Good News. Each of them is brutal and sweet at the same time, with violence counterbalanced by characters who are fiercely protective of their dogs and their children. There is always a kind of justice as well, even if it is not above board. There can be all kinds of justice.
All of these are One Sitting Reads.
If you are interested, you can get them here:
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