Kate Atkinson continues to mine England’s disaffected middle (the middle of the country and the middle class) for mysteries that are, at their heart, character-driven novels.
Tracy Waterhouse, middle-aged, retired from the police force and working as a security guard at a local, depressing mall, makes an improbable decision. Both Tilly, an elderly actress whose dementia is taking a turn for the worse, and Jackson Brodie, Atkinson’s Emily Dickinson-reading detective whose enthusiasm for his current job is, on a scale of 1 to 10, a minus five, witness it. The stories intersect with excrutciating slowness as Tracy copes with her present situation and the past that drove her to it. Atkinson’s mastery of narrative and detail combine with Tracy’s angst, the hilariously, tragically unhinging of Tilly, and the deadpan, deadened-but-moral Brodie to make Started Early, Took My Dog a fascinating journey.