Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Elanor Dymott

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.

Every Contact

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 college, but they moved in different circles. She had been a shining star and he had been a quiet worker.

Years later they met again, at the wedding of Alex’s closest friend. By then she was an academic and he was a successful solicitor. Something passed between them that day and they were soon married too.

But soon after the wedding they made a pilgrimage to their old college. And Rachel was murdered.

Alex tells his own story as he deals with the aftermath of his wife’s death, with grief, with the realisation that there was much about her that he didn’t know, and finally with his quest to understand how and why Rachel had dies.

That story flows beautifully, in lovely, cool crisp prose.

I felt the grief of this quiet, solitary man, and I understood his need to find out. There were moments when I questioned his reliability, but I came to believe that he was simply a man who didn’t want to accept certain truths, or that there were so many things he hadn’t known.

This phase of the story moved slowly, but the right telling details were illuminated, and the picture was pitch perfect.

And when Alex began to ask questions, when he finally persuaded people he knew were withholding stories about the past from him to talk, I turned the pages quickly, wanting to know the answers, wanting to see how the pieces of the story would fit together almost as much as he did.

There was so much to hold me: rich atmosphere, strong emotions, intriguing questions, literary allusions …

The story of the love between Alex and Rachel was resolved quite beautifully.

The story of the events that had led to Rachel’s death was well executed, but a touch predictable.

Much was said about the subjectivity of truth, the way we construct stories, and the burden of knowledge.

I saw small inconsistencies, small instances of unrealistic behaviour, but while I was reading I was sufficiently caught up with so much that was wonderful that I could let them go.

When I finished the book I saw more that was wrong. For many characters I couldn’t reconcile the background they came from, the young people they were at college, and the adults they had become that decade later.

I tried to tell myself was that maybe it was because there world was not mine, the choices that they made would never have been mine. But I know it was more than that.

And I also know that the many things that were done so well made we want to think less and feel more so that I could still love Every Contact Leaves a Trace.

Does that make sense? And does it ever happen to you?

6 responses

  1. Oh yes, that makes sense. Sometimes like you as I’m reading I’m absorbed in the story and can ignore my quibbles or questions – and it’s only after I finish the book that they tip the balance away from the book. But sometimes it happens in the reading itself – and then I tend to set the book aside unfinished.

  2. P.S. You might find this funny (I did). I immediately went to my library to see if we had this book, and we didn’t…but we did have this book with the same title… Every contact leaves a trace : crime scene experts talk about their work from discovery through verdict. Now, I love CSI:NY (does that play in the UK?) but I think I’ll keep looking for your book instead. 🙂

  3. 😦 Sadly I had the same experience as Audrey – same title, wrong book!
    I do know what you mean about how personal response makes it difficult to accept parts of the story. I’m having the same problem with a book I began a post on yesterday.

  4. I enjoyed this one, but agree that a few things didn’t quite work. I was willing to overlook them as I was so absorbed in reading it. With crime fiction I’m far more willing to forgive that sort of thing – it is rare for a crime book to be that realistic.And yes, I agree – the cover and those red page edges were stunning.

  5. I would have no problems curling up on the couch with this book, with some hot tea to go with it. But to answer your question: yes, it happens to me too. I often feel like I’m being pulled into two directions, with one part of me seeking faults and inconsistencies in the story, the other wanting to feel and forget about the little inconsequential details.

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