Kate Atkinson and changing styles



I fell into Kate Atkinson’s writing years ago when I first read Behind the Scenes of the Museum – followed by Human Croquet and Emotionally Weird. I loved her collection of short stories, Not the End of World.  This was an author I could hope for a lifetime of good books from.

Then she published Case Histories and my loyalty took a beating.

A detective book!

Where the magical and lyrical quirky imagination? Detective books are two a penny I grumbled, as I read the blurb on the back cover.

Traitor, I could have thought, as the Bob Dylan fan did when Bob changed to a new sound – I had dismissed that fan as a Luddite. I could follow Bob into the grave maintaining whatever he sang was worth listening too.

Could I do so with Kate?

The fact that she had changed genre hampered me at first, but the sheer brilliance of her storytelling won me over.

Kate has an eccentricity of imagination which can weave together compelling plots, sub plots, darkness and wit in an often lyrical and always satisfying way. Such a keen observer of human nature, the psychology of her lovingly and fully drawn characters always appears to ring true. Some have referred to Dickens in the same breath and I can see where they come from. In the deft way she can keep all the stories convincing, her characters the ability to combine darkness with domesticity and mix chaos with the mundane.

There have been four now with the same hero – is Jackson Brodie a hero? Yes, of course, but no superman, far from it. I have settled into her new format and enjoy them as much as have her first four. Now I am about to have challenge myself again for on my TBR pile I have Life after Life.  No detective this, but a time changing experience, they tell me, and her next book presumably the same – I can do it. While her writing remains so high and her skill of storytelling so good I look forward to delighting in her books for years to come.

Recently one of my reading groups down here in reality had Started Early took my Dog which  pleased most of the members, even those who like me had fallen for her earlier writing. I was reading it for the third time and enjoying it more each time. A mark if ever of a good read.

Started Early, Took My Dog: (Jackson Brodie)

Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson

This is the fourth of Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. It is full of murdered women, has connections between the events in the 70s to the present day, secrets to be kept at all costs, and Brodie wanders into it all unarmed by any useful information.

Tracey Waterhouse, a retired lonely policewoman, unmarried and unfulfilled, makes a spontaneous decision leading her to take an action which is not only illegal but highly dangerous, changing her life completely.

Brodie Jackson appears to be a hard action man, certainly attracting action against him. However, some could argue he is naive and continually being taken in, or indulging in failed relationships. He starts this book on a quest to trace the ancestry of a woman in New Zealand, who was adopted in Britain. He increasingly finds mystery, murder and mayhem, and finds his paths crossing that of another at frequent intervals. Adding to his general confusion, he is fighting alone, against unknowns.

Running alongside his search for his clients birth parents run a more sinister and dangerous plot line.

Kate Atkinson brings a deft touch to the stories of Jackson Brodie, there’s humour lacing the edges of darkness. The plots, although convoluted and full of subplots and little detours, seem realistic enough and the endings even more so.

As with the other three books, you do need to keep your wits about you, this is not a straightforward cozy mystery novel, but rather an intricate weaving together of disparate threads. In this tale of Brodie’s we have child abduction and the murder of women of the night ,two classes of the population who are not automatically protected. We have police cover-ups, dementia and violence .

Oh and we have a dog as well:)


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