LEFT EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, by Kate Atkinson

British police procedurals are a breed apart, and this one is completely off the beaten track. Retired cop Tracy Waterhouse, large and unloved but still a copper at heart, runs security at a shopping center. In a moment of mental murkiness, she wrests a small girl from the violent clutches of a woman who could been the child's mother...and then Tracy shoves three thousand pounds in the woman's grubby hand, instantly becoming what she never dreamed she'd be: a mother. The deed is witnesses by Tilly, an aging actress who has forgotten where her car is. Silly Tilly. Elsewhere, former soldier/cop/mercenary Jackson Brodie is trying to find a client's birth parents. An almost-retired detective has a secret. And that's just the tip of the knife. Highly-developed characters and an intricate plot that takes its time unwinding, coupled with idiosyncratic writing, are hard to find. If you haven't read Atkinson (I hadn't, but this won't be the last), you may find this rewarding and entertaining. A 4.