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Every Contact Leaves a Trace

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  787 ratings  ·  154 reviews
Elanor Dymott’s gorgeous debut tells the story of Alex, a solitary lawyer who has finally found love in the form of his beautiful wife, Rachel. When Rachel is brutally murdered one midsummer night on the grounds of their alma mater, Worcester College, Oxford, Alex’s life as he knows it vanishes.
He returns to Oxford that winter and, through the shroud of his shock and grief
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 6th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published April 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.06  · 
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Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
i really liked this, but i can totally understand why others do not - it is a very frustrating book if the structure just isn't your thing. if you are an impatient person; someone who wants their answers RIGHT FRIGGIN' NOW!, then this book is gonna make you want to throw it. it is a weaving, meandering, teasing book; one whose flaws i completely acknowledge, but which flaws did not diminish my enjoyment of the story at all.

it is about a man whose wife is murdered, and its central mystery is how?
I've mentioned before - on numerous occasions, I think - that I'm not keen on love stories. This doesn't mean I'm a killjoy about romance: I like reading about love, but it has to be realistically portrayed. To enjoy a fictional romance, I have to believe in the characters, feel for them, root for them: get this right and it's one of the best things fiction can do. But too often I feel like authors think they can just tell their readers the relationship between two characters is a great love sto ...more
A literary thriller set in Oxford, about a man trying to find the truth behind his wife's murder sounded good to me, but unfortunately it turned out to be mind-numbingly dull. The characters are utterly lifeless (well, some more than others) and the unearthing of the "mystery" is so tedious I was surprised the protagonist didn't just give up out of sheer boredom.

The love story was supposed to be romantic, but it wasn't for me, since I am a sane person. I hate it when authors present some horrib
Jul 23, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Two-thirds of the way through this over-long book I came across the line, 'and then she yawned, slowly, and told me to get on with it'. Everything is so drawn out and contrived, whether it's wealthy lawyers and IT geeks who don't possess a laptop or a Blackberry, as that would compromise the plot, or a student who travels from Oxford to Manchester via London Euston! There is also a wonderful moment when the narrator eventually plucks up courage to tell his true love of a terrible accident that d ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
First there was the book itself. A thing of beauty. The cover design, in black, white and a muted shade of red was lovely, and the page ends in that same shade of red were a perfect finishing touch.

And then there was an opening that promised so much

‘If you were to ask me to tell you about my wife, I would have to warn you at the outset that I don’t know a great deal about her. Or at least, not as much as I thought I did…’

Alex and Rachel had met when they were students at the same Oxford colle
Megan L (Iwanttoreadallthebooks)
2.5 stars rounded up (I'm being generous for my first review, I guess!)

I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded very interesting and I was intrigued by the description of part love story, part murder mystery. Unfortunately, Every Contact Leaves a Trace did not deliver on either for me.

My biggest problem with the book was the author's stream of consciousness, meandering style. I was fine with the non-linear structure but the author's style made this book very slow to read and almost
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. The book itself is gorgeous with red lined pages. However, the writing style soon proved to be too much like watching molasses run January. It took quite a while for the story to get going and when it did, it was constantly interrupted. I found this to completely destroy my concentration and soon began to disengage from it. I had figured out who "done it" very early in book and kept waiting for the rest of the characters to get up to speed. I've cer ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
London - Oxford setting, undertones of Browning's 'My Last Duchess,' murder mystery, unreliable narrators... unfortunately the book did not carry through on its premise. I was actually mad at the end (having made my way through the trudging, dragged-out, wearisome nature of the narrative), feeling cheated out of what could have been a great story.
Every single character in here is ridiculous and irritating from the clueless, irrational husband Alex to the bumbling Oxford professor (who demonstra
May 14, 2013 rated it liked it
So much promise here: unreliable narration, unlikeable characters, Oxford setting. But somehow, despite great writing style, it just misses the mark.

Rachel and Alex met as students at Oxford, had a summerlong fling, and then Rachel broke it off. Years later, at his BFF's wedding, they meet again and somehow end up engaged the next morning. A few months later, Rachel's head is bashed in at night during a visit the two of them take to their old college. Simple enough, right? The question, of cours
Linda Robinson
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
On the new book shelf. I took back The Morels after 80 pages. It was cold. I exchanged it for this book. Also cold. It took many pages for me to stop editing. Repeated phrases, adjectives, comma-ed phrases that could have been left out altogether. It reads like testimony about a love story, a police procedural of a murder investigation conducted by interested albeit emotionally challenged parties, a stalker's diary. The narrator is unreliable because he is not believable. His grief is antiseptic ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Beautiful writing, rich and lush. Some might think this book is rather wordy, but when the writing is as savory as this, I like wordy just fine and dandy. I was sorry every time I had to stop reading to do something else, would have liked to have read it in one sitting.

If you absolutely have to like the characters in a book, you may find that it is not easy to do here. That is not to say they were not drawn well. I do believe I could pick out the characters of Richard and Lucinda out on the stre
Trish at Between My Lines
Every Contract Leaves a Trace is a slow burner. It lingers over points, with beautifully lyrical language, studies complex relationships and it does it all in its own sweet time. The Oxford setting was fab and that was by far my favourite thing about the book.

Overall it's a cleverly plotted book and one worth spending time with. It could have moved faster but that wouldn't really have fit with the atmosphere of the book. I do feel like I need a lively, snappy paced book now though to counter ba
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My rating is really 4.5, though reading the GoodReads reviews so far, I was so surprised to find a number of low ratings that I wanted to swing the odds the other way and gave it 5. I think this is a remarkably strong first novel. I loved it. I got to the end and immediately began again, trying to puzzle out certain aspects. And even after the second read, I went back looking for specific details I hadn't quite sorted out in my own mind.

Obviously there are two things that draw you through (or do
Feb 06, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry, but this just wasn't for me. I have had this sitting on my bookshelf for about 8 years; very shallowly, I was first attracted to it by the cover and the red sprayed edges. Sadly, this seemed to turn out to be the best thing of the book. After getting to under 100 pages in, I decided that this just wasn't my cup of tea. I realised that I didn't care about the characters, or the plot. It is meant to be about who killed a young man's wife, and why. But, the plot seemed to meander, and I bega ...more
Amy Smith
A woman dies under mysterious circumstances while revisiting university in the UK. Bereaved husband (under suspicion) reflects on their romance. I loved this kind of story in the past, but this one felt as if it was moving in super slo-mo. Not for me.
Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every Contact Leaves a Trace is Elanor Dymott’s first novel, and is best described as a literary whodoneit. The setting is the University of Oxford. The main characters are students or academic staff, or closely associated with the University. The story is narrated by Richard, now a lawyer in early middle age. At the start of the novel he meets, apparently by accident, Rachel, with whom he has been at University. We know very quickly that the two have a shared past, but the details of their prev ...more
WOW can this writer conjure beautiful prose. This could have been a classic on a par with The Secret History. The love story, the touch of ghostliness, are so deftly woven in that they add an extra dimension without slowing the unfurling of the mystery for a moment.

We have the literary delight of a gormless narrator, unreliable because he doesn't understand what's been going on. I also enjoyed the way the book was equally about the effects of the victim's life and death on those around her.

A wa
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up simply because it caught my eye while I was skimming the titles in Waterstones; the words "Every Contact Leaves A Trace" stuck in my mind not as the title of another book, but more so as a brutally honest conclusion. Dymott spares no expense in proving that all fragments of the past do eventually haunt us again through the explanation of Rachel Cardanine's murder. Trying to grasp the few facts he can of the events leading up to his wife's death, Alex discovers that Rachel h ...more
Bonnie Brody
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 kn
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Every contact leaves a trace" may be the basic principle of forensic science, but don't expect a CSI-style procedural. The phrase is used in a more interpersonal sense, to mean that every contact with a person – in this case the narrator's murdered wife – leaves a trail of evidence that can be followed.

Introverted lawyer Alex is devastated when his vivacious academic wife, Rachel, is killed during a visit to their alma mater: Worcester College, Oxford. He can't think of why anyone would want to
Jessica Woodbury
This is definitely a good book. The problem I have with it is that it could've been a REALLY GREAT book but it doesn't quite get there.
It's overwritten, which is rather forgiveable.
It seems like it could've benefited from a 3rd person rather than 1st person narration, at least it seems that our narrator is really the worst person to be telling this story, given how often he tells us something that someone else has told him that they actually heard from another person entirely until you're in 4
Jun 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book had such potential. Unfortunately I think the writer tried to be too elusive and clever and ended up not giving us much of anything concrete. I don't mind being left hanging or not being quite sure what just happened but there are just too many things in here that don't make sense or don't have an explanation. The writing itself isn't bad, but the plot is eye rolling. I read this for my book club. In the end we decided it was more about relationships and loss than murder mystery, which ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I recieved this book for free through goodreads first reads

I love/hated this book. Sometimes I found it confusing and I wasn't sure what was going on. Mostly I really liked it though. It reminded me a lot of Gone Girl, especially because I was totally unsatisfied with the ending. I want to love this book but I just can't get past the feeling like it's leaving me with too many unanswered questions
May 28, 2013 rated it it was ok

Nostalgic for me (student at Oxford in same era). Very evocative. Very and-what-will-happen next.

Badly over-written in parts, excusable for a first novel.

However, bits of it woefully implausible even for Oxford. I realise the narrator i unrealiable, but even so!
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Although I read this book all the way to the end, it has left very little trace in my mind. I will look back at the book in a moment to bring it back to life, but before I do, here's what I thought as I was reading: it's extremely unpleasant to read a book in the first person by a narrator that you don't care for surrounded by people that you care for even less.

The book is a strange tale, ever so carefully constructed in its slow reveal, in its circling the same events over and over again until
Jackie Wadsworth
I cannot decide whether this was good or not.

It starts with Alex Petersen telling us about the death of his wife, Rachel. She has been murdered.

The rest of the story mostly takes place 6 months later, with Alex at Rachel's old tutor, Harry's house. Rachel and Alex met at Oxford uni, although they didn't get together until much later. Harry was Rachel's dissertation tutor.

Rachel was murdered on college grounds at an old Oxfordians get together.

The book is then 250+ pages of reminiscences, mem
Debbie Akers
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
The premise of this book... the unsolved murder of a young wife, who turns out to have had many secrets, sounded interesting to me. Several chapters in, I started getting the impression that this was going to be a slow ride. Curious if it was worth the wait, and if there was some wonderful twist I should hold out for or something, I went on Goodreads to check reviews. It seems others felt similarly, and even the ones who stuck it out weren’t wowed. (Of course, this doesn’t apply to every single ...more
A literary murder mystery set in Oxford. It's very well-constructed and should be right up my alley, with its non-linear structure and deep exploration of the characters' backgrounds and motivations but I found it strangely uninvolving, partly because most of the characters weren't very likeable and partly because so much of what happened is reported and not shown in the action, even when it wasn't necessary to do this. I would read another book by this author though as I liked the idea of what ...more
Anne Williams
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book but ultimately found it frustrating. The agonisingly slow pace at which parts of the story are revealed, with characters pleading tiredness after umpteen hours of exposition, other characters conveniently falling asleep, and the general perverseness of a story which moves at the speed of an eighteenth century epistolary novel whilst being set in the modern age of instantaneous communication, had me tearing out my hair! Grrr!
Dean Powley
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I finished it. I thought the descriptions of grief and loss and love and perception really spoke to me at times. But.... If it had not been an audio book and because I got stubborn and thought something might happen soon I would have stopped. It was so slow and turgid and repetitive. I normally like books welter things just unfold, but I didn't care or have any particular opinion about any of the characters, other than slight irritation ...more
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Elanor was born in Chingola, Zambia, in 1973. She was educated in the USA and England and also spent parts of her childhood in South East Asia. After studying English at Oxford University, she qualified as a lawyer before becoming a law reporter. Her short fiction has been published in Stand, The Warwick Review and Algebra. Every Contact Leaves A Trace is her first novel, and was longlisted for Th ...more

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