Started Early, Took My Dog: Kate Atkinson

Fans of tragi-comedic literary crime fiction rejoice, for Kate Atkinson’s fourth Jackson Brodie novel has arrived. This time, the ex-private detective is a little leaner and meaner, and has discovered Emily Dickinson (hence the book’s title). And he’s back in Yorkshire, God’s own country and scene of his not-so-happy youth.

Ostensibly, he’s on the trail of his latest ex-wife, but events, as well as a small dog, overtake him. As always, multiple plot strands and outrageous coincidences abound. Ex-policewoman Tracy Waterhouse is head of security at a large shopping centre, when a doozy of an impulse-buy instantly changes her life. Flashbacks transport us to mid-1970s Leeds – where most coppers are bent, where a young dead prostitute counts for nothing, and both Tracy and the Yorkshire Ripper are at the very beginning of their careers.

Meanwhile, ageing actress Tilly (who richly deserves a book of her own) struggles with dementia. She’s come up north to play the mother of a TV detective, but her world is slipping away. While some Brodie back-story is provided, it helps to have read the previous books in the series. And don’t expect a nice, neat ending ­– that isn’t what Atkinson’s books are about. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.