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Every Contact Leaves A Trace: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239775
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,402,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Much like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992), Dymott’s debut novel is set in academia and features a neurotic group of friends. Alex Petersen, a successful lawyer and graduate of Worcester College, Oxford, is in the grip of grief after his young wife, Rachel, is killed during a school reunion. As Alex investigates her murder, becoming more well acquainted with her mentor, caring English professor Harry, and her aloof and difficult aunt, Evie, Alex realizes that he didn’t really know his wife. She had complicated dealings with the other two students in her Browning seminar, composed of equal parts scholarship and debauchery, and he suddenly realizes that she went to great lengths to keep him in the dark about the nature of her relationships. Dymott proves skillful on a number of fronts, including conjuring the mysteries of human nature and the cloistered environment of an elite university, but this novel would have been twice as good at half the length. Still, the author’s deft evocation of mood and place marks her as a writer to watch. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“Superb…a quite exceptional novel…Beginning as a straightforward locked-room mystery, it develops into a delicate meditation on grief and revenge…Dymott has contrived a plot that is deeply satisfying.” (Observer)

“Part meditation on grief and memory, part literary thriller, Dymott’s complex debut is thoughtful and rich in mood…Readers of Gone Girl and The Secret History will be drawn in by its moody contemplation.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Moody, atmospheric…Dymott's beautiful prose and the elegant, measured nature of the plot should satisfy readers who hang in until the end. Recommended for those who enjoy literary thrillers and mystery novels, and fans of authors such as Donna Tartt and Ian McEwan.” (Library Journal)

“Elanor Dymott’s gorgeous debut novel is a murder mystery that's also a brilliant meditation on love and memory and loss. Like the Robert Browning poems her characters read at Oxford, the book is spooky, lovesick, dark, and lush, its narrator circling obsessively back on the death at its heart.” (Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It)

“A beautifully written novel that seeks to unravel the mystery of a marriage—and a murder. Coyly revealing, it dares us to ask how well we can ever know a loved one.” (Taylor Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of The Informationist)

“Lyrical, haunting, and beautifully told, this book is a compelling mystery wrapped inside a tender love story. Ms. Dymott doesn't as much tell us story in her stellar novel as she casts us under a delicate but unbreakable spell.” (Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Heartbroken)

“Dymott proves skillful on a number of fronts, including conjuring the mysteries of human nature and the cloistered environment of an elite university….the author’s deft evocation of mood and place marks her as a writer to watch.” (Booklist)

Every Contact Leaves a Trace is an intelligent literary mystery, featuring the kind of tormented narrator that Robert Browning himself might have relished.” (Maureen Corrigan - NPR)

“A murder mystery and love story brilliantly written and suffused with eroticism and a hint of menace…. A fabulous and haunting tale or revenge.” ("Buyer’s Choice” at Book Passage)

More About the Author

Elanor Dymott was born in Zambia. She studied literature at Worcester College, Oxford, later working as a commercial lawyer and legal reporter. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

The first half of the book is rather lengthy and repetitive.
pandora
The main character tells the story in a passive voice and it is all his memories or memories as told to him by another character.
cicadanymph
As an Eng Lit graduate myself, the Browning theme was appreciated!
Lady Fancifull

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Borree on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While the publisher stated that this book is a "gorgeous" novel, I strongly disagree. "Gorgeous" would not be a word I would choose; the book is a long and drawn out narrative. When I read the author's statement that she had written a great deal of this book while snowed in for a month, my impression of an undergrad paper written headlong under duress of a deadline was confirmed.

The book alternates time sequences which was interesting. However, most of the narrative, I won't say story for this novel, is presented by story-tellers. The author tells (and tells) how people feel, rather than showing. I do believe that the book is written in the passive voice, told by 2 main narrators. I will remember a couple of scenes, but that is too few for a 400 page book.

What struck me first about the book was the flat affect and narrative tone of the "main" story-telling character, Alex. At that point, I thought, what a clever author to write so flatly because Alex is obviously in shock due to the murder of his wife. But no, all the characters and the descriptions are rather flat. Perhaps they are all suffering from shock. I must say that no character develops in this book. Things happen to them; one character is described as using people but later is described as loving someone. There is no noticeable or verifiable difference in the character.

Here is another possibility regarding this novel: perhaps it is great portrayal of six characters who suffer from attachment syndrome--unable to connect, love with using, flat, isolated in their own needs...

One of the book's themes is unconditional love, but once again the characters and action do not show this unconditional care.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull on July 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was pulled towards this from reading an excellent review by a reviewer on Amazon UK, comparing it to 2 other novels, a Du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel, and Donna Tartt's first novel. Exactly right.

This is a slowly paced book, intense and obsessive. It details the solipsistic experience of a group of undergraduates, and then the events 10 years later, when one of them is murdered (no spoiler, this is laid out in the 'blurb')

The narrator, now a lawyer, and the husband of the murdered woman, is an attractive figure - he has his own troubled family history, which has slewed his world view, making him not the most sociable of men. He is introverted, reflective, a little obsessional, awash with self-doubt, and rather an outsider from the start, not completely at ease in the hothouse privileged world of Oxford. This gives his narrative voice a certain un-urgent nature - the drive of the book is not really 'who-dunnit' - in some ways suspicions arise quite early, for the reader; the drive is more - how does the knowledge revealed change the relationships of the main characters? It also leads to reflections on change, the transformative nature of love, and indeed - can we fully know those we love, and, if we do, what if that knowledge changes our ability to love them. What is the nature of love, if you like.

At some point in the book, when details of the summer ball began to unspool, and the relationships of the Literature students, I did think, oh no, this is all too much, its not quite believable, I'm losing a sense of credibility here; but whilst not a 'perfect' book, because of that, it still held me clutched tightly again, mainly due to the quality of the writing, and the central character. I found seeing through Alex's eyes worked extremely well.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alex Petersen's wife of just a few months has been brutally murdered on the grounds of their alma mater, Worcester College at Oxford. Rachel went down to the lake to meet someone and her head was bashed in with a stone. Alex goes into a deep depression and has to leave his job as an attorney in order to process his grief.

Alex decides that he wants to find out the truth about Rachel's murder as the police investigation is at a standstill. Harry, Rachel's tutor and mentor at Oxford, believes he knows the answers about Rachel's death. He invites Alex to come to Oxford and spend time with him so he can tell Alex his theories about the murder. Alex spends some days listening to Harry and finds out a lot about Rachel's life that he knew nothing about. When Rachel was a student she was involved in erotic activities with two other students that included extensive use of alcohol. These students, Anthony and Cissy, had reason to be jealous of, and angry at Rachel. He learns about Rachel's life with her godmother Evie who raised Rachel after the death of her parents when she was a child. Evie and Rachel had been estranged for many years and Evie was jealous of Rachel. Harry's narration of his theories may or may not be true and Alex is torn about what to believe. He is on the brink of going to New York from London to start a new job but first wants some closure about what happened to Rachel.

This novel is very character driven and very British. Fans of Tana French will delight in Elanor Dymott's debut novel. The beginning of the novel starts off slowly and meanders a bit until it gets to the meat of things. At that point, it spills out like an oil slick and twists and turns in every direction. I was stymied until the very end about who murdered Rachel. This is a superb novel and I highly recommend it.
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