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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kate Atkinson returns on top form with her fourth crime novel featuring Jackson Brodie, her slighly world-weary, laconic and oh-so-human private eye. This time he's in Yorkshire, trying to trace the family of Hope McMaster, whose roots don't seem to exist. Also in the mix is Tracy Waterhouse, cop-turned-security-guard, who is haunted by one particular murder from the 1970s; Tilly, an elderly actress who is struggling through befuddlement to play her role in a drama series; and DS Barry Crawford, just two weeks from retirement, a keeper of secrets who is weighed down with grief and anger. There is also a dog called The Ambassador.

While Jackson begins to uncover more about the mysterious Hope, Tracy makes a reckless purchase which throws her career and whole future into jeopardy. As ever, Atkinson controls the action perfectly, slipping from one plot-thread into another and weaving the strands tighter and tighter together until all are connected. Family ties, lost and found children, prostitutes, murders and a coincidence or two, this novel is tautly plotted and full of surprises.

I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson's books. Her characters are perfectly and wittily described, the writing is punchy, humorous and tight, and the momentum builds and builds throughout to a satisfying ending. The dialogue is always spot-on and realistic, and I think she captures relationships brilliantly - particularly Jackson's relationships with his ex, Julia, his daughter, Marlee, and the eponymous dog in this novel, as well as the dynamic between Tracy and Barry. This is sure to be another massive hit for Atkinson, and well deserved. I'm already looking forward to the next one!
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on 25 August 2010
If you come to this cold, without having read the Jackson Brodie books before you may not like this as much as I did. One of the major criticisms laid against the author is that she includes too many coincidences. This is a bit like dismissing the many popular fantasy and magic books because there is no such thing as magic. The author incorporates these coincidences deliberately, its part of her unique world and scheme of things, accept this and you have a wonderful read. After all, we are all subject to continual quirks of a fate, if we hadn't taken time out to double check the front door we might have hit that lorry on the wrong side, chosen another cafe and we wouldn't have met the man of our dreams.
Jackson himself I find adorable, he's hard, he fights 'em all off and he's as soft as butter round kids. I did find there was perhaps a surfeit of other characters and bit players in this book and like other readers I couldn't quite see the point of the ageing actress Tilly though it did bring in an amusing side line tale of a soap opera.

The writing is often very funny, I like the bit when she describes a hideous mauve leather sofa as 'an undignified end for a cow' Its wry and dry and it's a bit love it or hate it, I have friends who find this author a real pain in the butt. If you are new to Jackson I would really recommend you buy or borrow the earlier books first, otherwise you will find yourself asking 'Who is Louise? Who is Josie?" If you are a seasoned reader of these books I would say its not the best perhaps but it is still sharp and acute and very very readable..the last of which is surely what we want from a book.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is really three different character pieces woven into one story; the narrative switches between private investigator Jackson Brodie, security manager Tracy, and weathered, partially senile actress Tilly. It also leaps between the 1970's and the present day. This can be a bit confusing initially, but makes the narrative flow between temporal breaks appear seamless once you get used to it.

Each character has their own unique internal voice and dialogue, all compellingly written and well realised. The spoken dialogue is equally well written, clever, well paced, and feels `real', rather than crafted. Tracy and Tilly, in particular, come off as regular, every day people, dealing with (sometimes) extra-ordinary events. Their reactions, actions and motivations seem to gel together well, and there isn't much in these two characters to disbelieve.

Jackson Brodie, who I believe is a recurring character in other novels by the same author, has a slightly less believable back story (musingly admitted by the character himself), but manages to be both sympathetic and amusing to read. The ancillary characters also have their own well-detailed motivations, and made watching the `mains' interact with them aq pleasure.

The central mysteries of the plot centre around a crime committed in the 1970's, which is linked to an investigation in the here-and-now. I won't discuss the details, but will say that it all hangs together very nicely. The pacing kept me turning pages, looking for the next clue to the larger mystery, and the final outcome was both intriguing and satisfying.

A good story, excellent characters, and a clever mystery - a good read.
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on 7 October 2010
If you like Kate Atkinson then you'll probably like her latest offering, although the plot does stretch credibility even further than she usually does. My main grouse is that it is unfinished. We are left waiting for the next installment as she doesn't bother to resolve one of the main plot lines. That's a cheap ploy Ms Atkinson to try ensure sales of the sequel! The book should stand alone as a good read - it's not a serial. I felt cheated at the end of this one.
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on 5 June 2011
I have been looking forward to tackling my paperback copy of the latest Jackson tale. I even considered buying it in hardback (a rarity for me) but I'm glad I didn't stretch to that extravagance. I've never really understood anyone who gives Atkinson less than 3 stars - but I find myself agreeing with a lot of their comments this time. I am also beginning to feel that there is a tiny, tiny bit of a 'forumla' appearing with these Jackson books. The disparate characters and jumbled plot-lines worked well in 'Case Histories'; exceptionally well in 'One Good Turn'; very well in 'When Will' but seemed far too forced in 'Started Early'. I felt that Jackson didn't really connect with any of the characters, the plot or his Yorkshire homeland - and so I felt that I wasn't connecting with Jackson either. The story was good enough but I feel it was just not really finsihed off to the same high standard of her previous. There seemed a lot of hype around this novel and I wonder if Atkinson's heart wasnt really in it this time.
I loved Tracy and if she had been absent I'd have really struggled with 'Started Early'. However, Tilly was a side-line too far and too oblique to the rest of the action (the ending on the railway lines? Really?). In my opinion it could have done with a bit more on Linda instead (never mind Lomax et al!). Still, I read it in super quick time and feel that it does add to the Jackson stable more than it detracts. But it's a long way off being Atkinson's best.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the fourth novel to feature Jackson Brodie, an attractive and interesting character with a tragic past and poor taste in women. With a protagonist this likeable, it would be a shame to come to this latest installment of his complicated life without having read the other books first, but a Jackson catch-up section fills you in on the story so far.

Jackson and the two other main characters find themselves in situations where they witness cruelty against a child and a dog. Their subsequent actions lead to them crossing paths in often violent and dangerous circumstances. The other key strand to the story describes a 35 year old murder case, mirrored in a new speight of prostitute killings.

Atkinson employs some of the techniques of traditional crime procedurals; the battle-weary coppers, the chance encounter and (un)happy coincidences. Her Jackson Brodie books are novels that feature crimes rather than crime novels. In some respects, this is frustrating as not all the crimes are solved. However, what keeps you reading is the witty, sympathetic and well-drawn characters.

In this latest book, I fear that she is going over old ground by using familiar structures, but sometimes all you want is to spend a nice evening indoors catching up with friends.
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VINE VOICEon 29 March 2011
Having read other reviews here, I now feel less guilty about having given up after eighty or so pages. The cinema and television have taught us to deal with rapid switches between threads in a plot but in this book it just doesn't work. Not having read any of the author's previous books, I didn't know if there was to be a main protagonist: was it Tracy, or Tilly, or Jackson, or perhaps someone else? Maybe it was Steve or his unnamed sidekick ("he') who are in Munich on page 21 and then disappear until some time after I gave up. Challenging is one thing, downright confusing is simply a deterrent.

The plot devices were troubling, too. Jackson's acquisition of the dog was just about acceptable but the way Tracy came by the child was risible.

After all the hype for Ms Atkinson, this was a severe disappointment.
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on 19 October 2010
I'm a huge Kate Atkinson fan, so I was excited to read the latest in the Jackson Brodie novels. I'm sad to say, I fell a bit out of love with him in this book. I didn't feel like I really connected with any of the characters, even Jackson's "voice" didn't hook me in as usual, and the split timeline felt confusing to me. The most intriguing story was Tracey's, and I felt really cheated by the end - what on earth happened?! I went back and re-read One Good Turn and When Will There be Good News? after I finished this, and read both of them in a couple of nights, whereas I dipped in and out of this over the course of a few weeks. I found it a disappointing and frustrating read in comparison with Atkinson's other novels, and hope the next episode - assuming there is one - is back on track.
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VINE VOICEon 30 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those books I chose on the off chance , having never read anything by the author before - and am delighted I did. Kate Atkinson is clearly an accomplished writer, using words to paint vivid scenes, which conjure up not just the visual, but the smells and atmosphere. The characters are wonderfully layered, into complex and challenging individuals. All of them are flawed, and I found myself empathising with their feelings and situation, but was never quite be sure if I liked them or not - which makes for much more interesting characters.

The story is essentially about the adults involved with lost children, the children who have disappeared from one life, straight into another. The children concerned are the neglected kids of prostitutes, and their lives are woven in the environment of murder, police, and the private detectives hired to find some answers. Spanning 35 years, the book gradually unravels how some people have carried on following a serious crime, showing the ability to cope, and not cope, without wallowing in emotional voyeurism.

I'd highly recommend this. It's a very absorbing book, with a constant thread of curiosity and suspense. It took me just under 5 hours in total to read, and is one of those books I would pick up and read a second time.
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on 19 May 2011
I was gripped by this while I was reading it, but ended up feeling pretty disappointed. So many ends were left untied. One of the things I liked best about Atkinson's earlier novels is the way that everything ties up as if she's run the plot past a Swiss watchmaker before starting to write.

I believe that there's a sequel to this book, which would explain the unfinished ends. Despite this, I almost gave it four stars, because it WAS so very readable. In the end, though, I gave it three, because I am sorry to say that after I'd finished, it rather left me wondering why I had bothered.

Like an earlier reviewer, I wish that she'd go back to writing quirky one-offs. She's a simply wonderful writer and I would love to read some more of those.
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