Tag Archives: Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog an excellent read

I’ve enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s books for years… her characters are three-dimensional, bad things happen to people you like, life is messy, but through it all, there’s an overall optimism.  A bit gritty, but sweet.  All true for her latest novel.

With Started Early, Took My Dog, Atkinson has two main characters:  Jackson Brodie, a sort-of retired PI whom we have seen and enjoyed in previous books, and Tracy Waterhouse, a plumpish, tough-ish 50+ cop on the cusp of retirement.  There are a myriad of other characters, as well, and story lines that happen today juxtaposed against those that happen in the 1970s.   This mystery is not for skimmers – it requires the reader to read slowly and pay attention.

I think that’s great.  The New York Times review comments “…Ms. Atkinson (is) a darling of other writers, who understandably admire the wizardry of her techniques.”  Guess I’m one of those admirers.

Children – having them, caring for them, neglecting them, stealing them, abandoning them, wishing for them, dealing with them, learning from them, loving them – populate the novel, and confusion about the fate of a child from long ago is one of the mysteries unravelled.  There’s the small child discovered locked in an apartment with the mother’s weeks-dead body.  There’s a child given to the childless couple, who emigrate to Australia.  And then there’s the child that Tracy Waterhouse buys outside a shopping mall from a skanky, shiftless low-life woman, well-known to Child Protective Services.

Tracy’s story – hiding out, and then on the lam with Courtney – is scary and lovely at the same time, as the reader learns more about Tracy and Tracy learns more about herself and what she is capable of.   Brodie’s search involves doggedly following the clues where they lead.

And for those who want to know “what about the dog?” I’ll just say that there is a dog and he is a wonderful character in his own right.  Brodie’s investigation is richer for having to schlep around a small, smart, and scrappy dog.  The dog repays Brodie’s rescue in kind.  Very satisfying.

Needless to say, Atkinson pulls the plot threads (and a couple more that I’ve ignored in this review) together at the end, in an interesting and satisfactory way.

NYC Bookstores Specialize in Mystery

Like a lot of places, New York City doesn’t have as many bookstores as it used to have.  On the other hand, the number of Starbucks outlets has increased exponentially in the last ten years.  And it continues to have plenty of guys selling handbags and watches, as well as helpful folks wanting to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to go to a comedy club.

Partners & Crime, Greenwich Village

But mystery lovers who make an effort will be rewarded.  A short subway ride to Greenwich Village will bring you to the doorstep of Partners & Crime.  What’s great about this bookstore is the many hand-lettered signs, helping you find the books you’ll most enjoy reading.  I discovered a Kate Atkinson, When Will There be Good News?, that I am currently enjoying.  Atkinson’s book interweaves several perspectives and backstories in a way that reminds me that there’s more to mysteries than clomping through a chronology in first person.  (I can diss this style because that’s what I do.)  Good News is out in paperback and a heck of a bargain, so go buy it.  I also bought a thriller, Close-Up, by Esther Verhoef and translated from the Dutch.  I read a couple of chapters in the store to be sure, and its got me hooked already.   Margot’s just getting over a rough break-up when she meets a mesmerizing man… he opens new doors for her, she’s spreading her wings.  Only the reader suspects he’s a killer.  But is he?

The Mysterious Bookshop, TribecaAlso worth visiting is Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca, especially when accompanied by lunch at the Kitchenette, a thrift store stop, and less than 30 minutes in line at the TKTS booth to snag two tickets to Billy Elliott at half-price.  I was lured into a signed copy of Caught by Harlan Coben (always a favorite) as well as Linwood Barclay‘s Never Look Away, after reading a comparison of the two books in today’s New York Times.  I’ve read both authors before and am interested in reading them back to back.

The Mysterious Bookshop’s allure is burnished by its owner, Otto Penzler, well-known on the mystery scene for decades and editor of the Best American Mystery Stories and the Best American Crime Writing series for years.  So well-known is he that he was tapped to write Robert B. Parker’s obituary in Time magazine.

Both mystery bookstores are comfortable, ready for browsing, and feature comfortable chairs and nearby coffee shops.  Both are stuffed to the gills with autographed books.  And both are well-worth visiting, so bring your credit cards and a canvas bookbag!