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

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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


“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)

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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: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,901,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teresa Wagner on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The only reason I even finished the book was to find out "who done it" and even that was disappointing in its telling. D r a w n out doesn't begin to describe this book. It was the most dragging, boring narrative I've ever read. The story could have been told in ten pages. The two main male characters were also beyond boring and neither had a back bone. If this is the kind of writing that is taught in Oxford, I thank god that other schools must teach it differently. I kept waiting for the husband to show some spunk, some courage or ANY real emotion. And the Oxford professor? Do people there really get paid to do so little but prattle on and on with such formality and meaninglessness? I'm glad I've already visited England and enjoyed it. . . after this book I would be concerned that the whole culture is this boring and every person there is unable to speak in less than 1,000 words when 25 would do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cicadanymph on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I hesitated over giving this book only 2 stars because its not poorly written as far as mechanics go (no cliches or clumsy phrasing). There were also several images that remained with me. However, as others have stated, the problem with this book is that it is all telling and not showing and the telling is about things that have already happened. I felt like I was watching a blurred film with the sound turned down. There is very little dialogue and action in this book. 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. This results in a story that is often dull and drags in places.
Perhaps due to the way this story is told I also never felt like most of the characters were very fleshed out. Evie never seemed like anything more than a caricature, and a very fuzzy one at that. The narrator is so bland that at first I thought he was supposed to be a psychopath. The other characters are very unlikeable but not interesting. Henry seemed gullible and spineless. Richard was obnoxious. Anthony was disgusting and so was Rachael. I realize Rachael was supposed to be flawed but I think the author intended her to have improved. To me, though, all she did was fall in love, there was no real evidence that she became a better person and her simply being able to love didn't redeem her enough for me to care what happened to her.
My final complaints with the story are that I figured out who the killer was pretty early on and I don't think the plot was very realistic. I may read something else by Dymott if she writes it because there is potential in her writing if she figures out how to create and tell a story in a more interesting living breathing way but as far as this one goes I wish I had checked it out of the library instead of purchasing it.
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