Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog

First book of the year was Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog --- title rivals Atkinson's last Jackson Brodie novel, When Will There Be Good News. I'm such a fan of this series (four so far) and can only hope that Atkinson is busy working on the next one as I prattle on here. (although I've just realized that I haven't yet read One Good Turn, even though I knew about it back here -- so that treat beckons . . .) No character here captured me as completely as did Reggie, the teenage girl in News, but there were some deft, tender character sketches. Indeed, Brodie himself is coalescing, as a protagonist but not at all a dominating one, through a series of sketches. I can't see any danger of Atkinson exhausting her interest in him because his role is so exploratory, so tentative. His detective efforts do move the plot along, but in every one of these books, he's been aided by others -- and by Chance, even Fate, if you will.
While Brodie shares many personality traits with those flawed-and-sensitive types who thus become gruff and drink too much and run afoul of the systems within which they work, he's much less predictable than the Rebuses and the Harry Bosches and Jack Reachers. He still seems to be puzzling out the world as he goes along, bumbling even -- hard to imagine Rebus or Bosch or Reacher getting dumped by the side of the road after picking up . . . oh, but that would be telling, wouldn't it?
English countryside, police procedural, Whitby and Leeds and other Yorkshire highlights from my relative-visiting youth . . .
A sadly convincing portrait of an older woman sinking into Alzheimer's . . .
Anyway, I'll stick to short here, but would be happy to hear from any of you who want to add your opinion . . .

2 comments:

  1. Goodness, I can't even keep up with your reading blog, that's how good my reading is ... I read this as well, almost as soon as it was available. I didn't love it as much as the previous one, but I totally agree about Brodie - just as you think you've managed to work him out, he does something a little different. I also think Julia's character is spot-on; I swear I know her in real life! I only wish Kate Atkinson pumped them out as quickly as some of the purveyors of trash. And I find her fascinating too - moving from her earlier work into detective/crime fiction was a really unusual move, but she seems to thrive with it.

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  2. Tiffany: I remember when you were reading this -- my first alert that she had written another Jackson Brodie.
    I've read that the Brits don't draw the same clear line between "literary" novels and genre fiction that we tend to, and I'd say Atkinson is a great example of someone who confounds that boundary. As mystery buffs, you and I know that the genre gives all kinds of scope to explore social issues, develop rich characters, play with large and complicated narrative arcs (especially in series), detail evocative settings and pay some attention to those important moral ambiguities at the heart of living ethically as humans in a complicated world. I'm so pleased that some very good writers choose to exercise their literary chops in such an entertaining field. . .

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