Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog

April 9, 1975, and Carol Braithwaite, a known prostitute, has been savagely murdered. And if that crime isn't heinous enough, her emaciated four-year-old son had been locked in with the dead body for an estimated three weeks. In Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog, the Braithwaite case remains unsolved, but over 30 years later promises to disrupt any number of disparate lives.

There’s Tracy Waterhouse. She and her partner discovered Carol’s body and her traumatized son in 1975. Tracy always felt that certain details of the case didn’t make sense. Why was the house locked from the outside? Who had had the key? Why did Carol’s son simply vanish into thin air? And, why wasn’t the police department more actively investigating the case? Tracy, now retired from the police department and never married, witnesses a young child being mistreated by a street addict and, on a whim, buys the girl with money saved for house renovations.  

Then there’s Jackson Brodie who’s been hired by Hope McMaster to find her real parents. How is Hope--adopted as a young child years ago by a couple who suddenly moved from England to New Zealand--connected to Carol Braithwaite? Jackson, too, acquires a new companion. Also seeing a case of abuse, Jackson deftly brings a thug to his knees and leaves with the bully’s dog.

Finally, there’s Tilly Squires--an aging actress in the throes of senile dementia. Tilly sees the same mistreated young girl, but doesn’t realize that Tracy has already rescued her. Still acting, but finding every day a challenge as she sinks deeper into confusion, Tilly constantly berates herself for not saving the child.

If the case isn’t perplexing enough, why is a group of thugs tracking anyone asking questions about the long-deceased Carol Braithwaite?

On a personal note, if you love hearing a British accent, Started Early, Took My Dog is available on CD and the listen is quite entertaining. Despite what seems like a gruesome tale, the author’s witty writing frequently left me laughing out loud as I fought the traffic jams of Fredericksburg.