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In this story of chance meetings, instant adoptions, cover-ups, Rippers, found treasures, and families lost, the interwoven tales of Tracy Waterhouse, 50-something ex-detective in search of the love of her life; always-second-best veteran stage actress cum Magnum PI's mum Tilly;long-murdered crack whore Carole Braithwaite and her orphaned child; and the divorced, confused, and somewhat cynical Jackson, happenstance and swift, instinctive choices propel us as we leap from the '70's to the present and back again on a mystery tour rife with laughter, profundity, and - most notably - quickly and expertly drawn characters who are the center of this novel, even when the centers of their worlds cannot hold.
Unlike other mystery-suspense-crime novels of my recent acquaintance, Started Early, Took My Dog is a book I will recommend to one and all, whether or not such genres are normally within their customary reading. And that's because the plot, although swift-moving and intriguing in itself, is really not what this book is about. It's the characters: Tracy, the big, butch ex-police officer whose instant choice to buy a kid propels her into the love she's always wanted and Tilly, the slightly-less-than-grande dame tilting under the constellations of her own dementia and Courtney, the stoic four-year-old whose smallest gesture could break a cold man's heart and Barry, the dissolute cop drowning in layer upon layer of guilt for his own compromising acts and of course Brodie, he of the title 5:30 a.m. rising and the accidental canine companion.
You'll want to know what becomes of them, what they'll think and feel next, what they'll say, and how they'll react to what fate and their own chance choices deal them.
And if you're like me, you'll slap sticky after sticky into this book for passage after passage marking stellar turns of phrase, quick and penetrating insights, and perfectly apt applications of beautiful quotes borrowed from the greats of Western literature.
It's a true reader's delight, and I suggest you buy it for yourself and your friends and your book group today.
My highest marks, and my appreciation to Kate Atkinson and to Hatchette Books for bringing this book into my wee sphere. I won't happen upon such a lively and gratifying read any time soon, I'll wager, and I'm grateful.
Transform-My-Life Action: First, I'm ready to start organizing my favorite quotations and slapping them on the table whenever chance allows. This novel sports characters who naturally and believably weave telling snippets from Dickenson and Shakespeare and Pope and many more into their thoughts and speech. And it's about time I owned up to doing the same in my head, but rarely aloud. So: here's to memorizing not just poems - as I'm wont to do from time to time - but also a smattering of quotations to trot out on appropriate occasions. Hold me accountable, local pals and friends from the far corners of the interwebs: In May, ask me to recite a few via IMing on the new ActionReaders website.
Change-The-World Action: I will be passing this book along to many of my friends and colleagues and family members. Look out Mom: Mothers' Day's coming up! And I'll be raving on Amazon and Goodreads too.
p.s. Regular readers will note that I am not a fan of recent crime and suspense novels, at least not the ones I've been reading lately. This book breaks the mold, because it's all about the characters, the themes of loss and life history taking their toll and attempts at redemption and wholeness, and the language itself that cradles all the people and ideas. This is a 4-5 star read disguised as the fourth in a series of crime novels about the character Jackson Brodie. But since I haven't read any of the earlier books I can attest to the fact that it stands alone entirely, and offers readerly satisfaction in and of itself.