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Started Early, Took My Dog

Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Mar. 2011. c.400p. ISBN 9780316066730. $24.99. F
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Jackson Brodie returns in Atkinson's fourth novel (Case Histories; One Good Turn; When Will There Be Good News?) featuring the former policeman. Jackson (semiretired at 50) is doing some private detective work and trying to come to grips with his personal life, which includes a teenage daughter from his first marriage, a son with a former lover, and a second wife who stole his savings. Jackson adds a small dog to the mix by rescuing it from its abusive owner as he undertakes an "innocent" request from a woman in Australia: Could Jackson help her find her birth parents in England? In this literary mystery on the theme of missing children, nothing is innocent or simple. The intricate narrative, composed with deftness and humor, moves among scenes set alternately in 1975 and the present and contains a cast of well-drawn characters whose relationships unfold like the layers of a peeled onion.
VERDICT This book will not disappoint Atkinson and Jackson Brodie fans, but it might be a stretch for some readers to keep up with the multifaceted plot, though it is well worth the effort. [Five-city author tour; see Prepub Alert, 12/13/10.]

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