Kate Atkinson’s mysteries featuring Jackson Brodie are always complex and carefully plotted. The somewhat hapless Brodie is a “semi-retired” private investigator who usually works in Edinburgh, but Started Early, Took My Dog takes him back to his home town of Leeds in Yorkshire.
Jackson Brodie is trying to locate the family of Hope McMasters, a woman who was adopted in the 1970’s at the age of two. In doing so, he has stumbled upon the story of an old crime–a prostitute was murdered and the child found with her disappeared.
Tracy Waterhouse, a retired detective who works as a security guard at a mall, was originally on that case and always worried about the child. On impulse, Tracy purchases another abused child from a junkie prostitute. When Jackson tries to find her to ask her about the old crime, she thinks he is after her for kidnapping and flees.
Two separate groups of people appear to be chasing Tracy–or maybe Jackson. And what does Tracy’s friend Barry know about the crime? And how is Tillie Squires, an old actress who is going senile, involved in everything? And then there’s the dog.
Atkinson’s mysteries are edgy and well written, as well as humorous. She spends more time on characterization than the usual mystery novel, creating interesting individuals. The novel changes between viewpoint and time to tell the complex, interweaved stories about identity.