Started Early, Took My Dog

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I love the title. It's snipped from an Emily Dickenson poem, but I love it anyway. There are poetic references scattered through the book. (I assume there are more than I recognized, I'm not that literate.)

This is billed as a "Jackson Brodie" novel, but (as usual with this series) Jackson is absent from great swaths of the book, while other characters carry the narrative. Fine, I'm used to that by now.

Private investigator Jackson is hired by a lady living in New Zealand to investigate the circumstances of her adoption back in 1975. Not coincidentally, we're also shown the circumstances of a horrific 1975 murder of a prostitute, discovered by lady cop Tracy Waterhouse and her partner.

In the present day, that murder remains unsolved, and it becomes evident that there wasn't a lot of interest in solving it. Tracy is now retired from the police force, living a lonely and barren life. All that changes when she witnesses a young girl, Courtney, being abused. On the spur of the moment, Tracy shoves some cash to the abuser, and grabs the kid. Kind of an unconventional adoption.

And meanwhile, Jackson acquires an abused dog, in much the same way. No money exchanges hands, but he does beat on the abuser.

There's also Tilly, an aging actress now appearing in the private-eye TV show Collier, as mother to the show's hero. Unfortunately she's in the throes of dementia. But she witnesses a key scene, which later drives a very unfortunate climax.

There is a lot of super-Dickensian coincidence, some very dark humor. Rough justice is eventually delivered.