Perhaps because I just finished Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist I find this comparison with Atwood’s Alias Grace: the opening is in the present, getting us immediately involved in the characters. Both writers use as their next step a device to quickly provide the necessary details of story; in The Body Artist DeLillo provides us with a newspaper obituary that includes background, then proceeds in linear narrative. In Alias Grace, Atwood uses two devices; a newspaper-like account of the past murders, and a poem that reveals the sequence of events of that past. She then proceeds back to the linear present (so far).
Very skillful use of these devices to give the reader information in a straightforward, condensed manner that goes outside of the normal storytelling technique.