"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Started Early, Took My Dog

Ah, the last book of the year. It was a bit of an unusual year for me, in that I mostly read series. Few authors, but more books than in recent years, for a total of 15 books, which is more than a book a month, which for me lately, is good. And I was happy to end the year with the most recent Jackson Brodie book.

TITLE: Started Early, Took My Dog
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

Jackson Brodie is often a poor excuse for a detective. He can be so dense sometimes. And he's often his own worst enemy. But he's honest, has a good heart, good instincts, is a decent guy, has a habit of hooking up with women who are wrong for him, and ends up always doing the right thing. He also has baggage. A lot of baggage. His sister was murdered when he was a boy and he's never gotten over it, especially because her killer was never found. Both his parents are dead, his older brother killed himself. He's got a teen daughter, an ex-wife, an ex-lover and a son by the ex-lover, and a fake wife who emptied his bank account. Then there's the near-death experience in a train wreck in a previous book, and it's understandable that Jackson has issues.

In this tale, he's looking for the true identity of a woman who was adopted as when she was a toddler. Concurrently, a retired policewoman, Tracy Waterhouse, buys a little girl from a prostitute, an event that propels the action of much of the story. As the story progresses, a series of events, small and large and amazingly coincidental, knit together to form a whole that is riveting and emotional. How Jackson's investigation ties into a 30-year old murder of a prostitute that Tracy and her partner discovered forms the backbone of the plot. Add in an aging actress sinking into dementia, a dog Jackson rescues from his abusive owner, and a mysterious man in a gray car, and you've got a typical Atkinson novel, one with stories that reach into the past and lead back to an explosive climax when all the scattered elements come together.

The mystery isn't the point, exactly. I figured out most of it, even if I didn't nail the actual killer. This is more than a mystery. It's a novel with a mystery driving it. It's more the story of lost and found children, abuse and survival. And it makes for addicting reading.