CBR-V Review #17: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Why I Read It: I was in love with Life After Life, and have been looking for literary mysteries to tide me over in the absence of new Tana French/Stieg Larsen novels.

My Rating3 stars

Summary: Three characters cross paths one morning without realizing it: Jackson Brodie, a detective investigating the circumstances around a young woman’s adoption, Tracie Waterhouse, an ex-policewoman with little to live for, and Tilly, an aging actress struggling to deal with her deteriorating mind. They weave in and out of each other’s lives over the course of the novel as they seek out answers to certain secrets–and strive to keep their own.

My Review: I was expecting great things from this book, but I was pretty disappointed by it. It never came together for me–I liked all of the storylines independently (a lot, actually), but I didn’t feel like they connected in any meaningful way. It’s difficult to discuss this issue without spoiling too much, but I felt like the characters’ lives could have intersected much more effectively and their individual plotlines could have been explored a bit more deeply. There was no satisfying conclusion to this book, and I think Atkinson spread herself too thin by following three main characters. Of the three main plotlines, I thought Tracie’s was by far the strongest, but ultimately has the most disappointing ending. Jackson’s mystery was promising at first but I never got a sense of how it related to the rest of the story, and I didn’t get a sense of urgency around it. It ended up being kind of boring and pointless. Tilly’s sections were incredibly powerful–Atkinson places you in the mind of someone suffering from dementia, and it’s truly creepy and claustrophobic and sad–but I didn’t think they had much purpose in the overall narrative.

That being said, Atkinson is a phenomenal writer, and her prose is filled with gorgeous images and brilliant atmosphere. I love reading her writing regardless of the subject, and in terms of the words on the page, she succeeded. I just don’t think that this was enough to redeem the overall weak story.

Should You Read It? If you’re a die-hard Atkinson fan, this certainly isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours. It’s not her best work, though, and it doesn’t leave much of an impression, so I’d seek out her other books before picking up this one.

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