Retired detective Tracy Waterhouse is not prone to heedless action—until that day at the mall when she makes the mother of all impulse buys. One minute she's watching a little girl being mistreated by her junkie mom, feeling "despair and frustration as she contemplated the blank but already soiled canvas of the kid's future." The next she's asking: "How much for the kid?" So begins Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog (Reagan Arthur), the latest novel to feature private investigator Jackson Brodie, first seen in the author's 2005 Case Histories. Set in the English city of Leeds, the book alternates between the present and 1975, when then-rookie policewoman Tracy discovered another mistreated child, who eventually becomes part of Jackson's current investigation. While their lives only briefly intersect, they are kindred souls. Both Tracy and Jackson are tough, decent, appealingly vulnerable, and, in middle age, more than a little wistful about the choices they've made. (As Tracy contemplates her Faustian bargain, she thinks: "She could have someone to love but it would cost her everything.") 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
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, December 5, 2013