Every Contact Leaves A Trace

Longlisted for the 2013 Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award

Every Contact Leaves A Trace - hardback

‘Unique’ The Times

‘AddictiveMail on Sunday

‘Exceptional’ Independent 

‘Superb’ The Observer 

‘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 is a solitary London lawyer who is deeply in love with his beautiful wife, Rachel. When Rachel is murdered one Midsummer Night in Oxford, all of his happiness vanishes. Shrouded in shock and grief, he returns to Oxford that winter and begins to try to piece together the mystery surrounding Rachel’s death, discovering in her wake a tangled web of sex and jealousy, of would-be lovers and spiteful friends, of the poetry of Robert Browning, and of blackmail and revenge.

The novel was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK on 5 April 2012. Editions followed in the US (W W Norton), Germany (Kein und Aber), Italy (Giulio Einaudi editore), The Netherlands (Atlas Contact) and China (Chongqing Green Culture).


“Superb. . . .a quite exceptional novel. . .  it also has a confidence and ease with the rules of its genre, an appealing way of wearing its learning lightly, and a melancholy perceptiveness that is less reminiscent of THE SECRET HISTORY and its imitators than of Ford Madox Ford’s 1915 masterpiece THE GOOD SOLDIER … 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 without being trite.” Observer


“ … all told through Alex’s rather unreliable prism, a technique that brings to mind those of Ian McEwan, Ford Madox Ford and Donna Tartt … A pervading sense of intrigue swirls through the prose like mist in the spires, first obfuscating then relinquishing details … In addition to creating a cleverly calibrated and creepy murder mystery, Dymott has also fashioned a neatly tailored exploration of the desperate psychology of loss. We learn of the cold awfulness of gaining happiness, after years of loneliness, only to have it cleaved away. “I miss her. That’s the long and the short of it,” states Alex … Dymott has written a story that is shaped by the nebulous nature of knowledge … She repeatedly reminds readers that they don’t have the facts. This is a cunning, sharp first novel that revels in keeping one in the dark.”  Independent on Sunday


“An exquisite, creepy and unexpectedly sexy murder-mystery … With the tension of a Nicci French thriller, the intellectual fizz of Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY and the very best of Maggie O’Farrell’s unnerving readability, Dymott is a classy storyteller.  She gets under your skin from the first chapter and remains at the back of your mind for days after the final page.  Read this novel now before everyone else starts talking about it.” Elle


“This addictive novel … twists the knife with exceptional elegance. This is a class act which unveils its secrets as tantalisingly as a courtesan.” Mail on Sunday


“The telling of stories is key to this compelling locked-room thriller … There’s something of Ishiguro in the prose’s precision, the methodical narrator, and the reader’s unease about the characters’ self-delusion.  But there is no sense that the story is anyone’s but Dymott’s  … Dymott’s capacity to conjure striking imagery is exceptional. She builds up suspense to an almost unbearable zenith before lightly side-stepping into a related subject. This is more than a murder mystery. It’s an examination of the subjectivity of accounts of truth. It’s a desperately moving love story about a lonely man who finds salvation in another only to have the idyll destroyed. Finally, it’s a tale of revenge, served cold and deadly.” Independent


“It is very, very engrossing, a kind of fragmentary literary thriller set, in part, in Oxford. But it is much cleverer and more nuanced than that description suggests (the university setting is not just for colour, but becomes thematically active as the place where knowledge is sought and tested). Highly recommended as pacy holiday reading that’s also deeply thoughtful and very smart.” Guardian


“This hothouse setting invites comparisons with Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY, but Dymott’s voice is wonderfully unique.” Times


“Her debut novel artfully plays off different sensibilities, one literary and melodramatic, the other analytic and prosaic … It … casts its own spell and becomes wholly absorbing.” Evening Standard


“This murder mystery, which gripped me with unusual force, starts on a summer evening at an Oxford college … By the end of the evening, Rachel is dead — beaten to death with a rock. Horrible. Alex tries to find out why. Or is he the killer? This novel sucks you in beautifully, and will not let you go.” Evening Standard


“Shrewdly plotted and elegantly written … a narrative that is alert to life’s unknowable randomness.” Financial Times


“Dymott’s debut novel offers a powerful meditation on grief, love and the nature of uncertainty.” Sunday Times


“Murder mysteries and Oxbridge novels alike need to move skilfully to avoid hackneyed ground, and Oxbridge murder mysteries face a double challenge. Dymott uses the clichés of Oxford life to reflect on the loss of promise, judgement and love, resulting in a magnificently rich, potent novel that lays bare the melancholy of lives irredeemably fragmented.” Times Higher Education Supplement


“Dymott’s way of telling the story, unpeeling layer after layer of the narrative, presenting the reader with possible interpretations which do not exclude other ones, suggests that she is a student of Ford Madox Ford, that master of indirect narration, and notably of that great novel, THE GOOD SOLDIER.  Like Ford she takes time over it, demanding the reader’s close attention   . . . Highly intelligent.” Scotsman


“A book I have no intention of parting with – indeed, I am already halfway through my first reread – is Elanor Dymott’s EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE.  This is a remarkable debut novel.” Oxford Times


“As in all decent detective stories, we suspect first one person, then another — including the narrator. Dymott builds up suspense, then returns to the story of love and grief at the core of this book, before sending us deep into another mystery. This cleverly creepy crime story transcends its genre with delightful literary twists.” Oxford Times


“A chilling murder-mystery, where nothing is as it seems. . . Elanor Dymott’s debut is both elegant and eerie.” Marie Claire Good Book Club Pick


“Give me a book I simply have to complete (the sort you read walking down the street, narrowly missing lampposts) any day. That is precisely the category EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE falls into … It is Dymott’s startlingly original blend of mystery, love story and emotional journey that edges EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE into the top spot.  An intelligent thriller is a rare find – and therefore should not be missed.” **** Stylist


“From its startling opening, this clever murder-mystery tale only gathers in pace … It’s rare to feel so completely inside someone’s head – Alex’s stream-of-consciousness narrative is both realistic and gripping as he doggedly pursues the truth.”  Psychologies


“Part mystery, part romance, and with poetic prose and controlled pacing, this is an exquisite novel.” Easy Living


“A dark, clever campus novel that draws the reader into a skilfully woven web. . .  elegantly written.” Metro


“… this compelling murder mystery fuses the eccentricities of academia with romance … and cold-blooded revenge to create a truly chilling masterpiece …This is a stunning debut, fast moving and intriguing throughout; the sort you daren’t put down for fear of forgetting any minute detail. The plot requires intense concentration, particularly due to the unreliable narrator, yet this further emphasises the central theme of the indiscernible boundary between reality and perception. As a reader, one feels completely inside Alex’s head, identifying, although not always agreeing, with his every thought and action. It is impossible to fully support any of the characters, even our protagonist, for they are all at least partially flawed; yet this allows them to appear remarkably human … perfect for anyone seeking to be fully absorbed in a wealth of catharsis and ambiguity. Thoroughly enjoyable.” Rebecca Field, newbooks The Magazine for Readers and Reading Groups


“Despite the setting, this is not a conventional Oxford murder mystery.  Elanor Dymott was herself at Worcester in the mid-1990’s, and it is no surprise to discover that her special interests were in modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf and Ford Madox Ford, both of whose concerns in novel writing she appears to share.  Though just as subtle and layered, her style is rather more approachable, and certainly less inhibited.  Indeed, one of the pleasures of Dymott’s novel is the frankness and abandon with which she writes about sex and violence.  For a debut novel, it shows not just promise but a compelling assurance and mastery.” Tablet


“Dymott’s arresting debut . . . combines the pleasures of a thriller with an elegiac meditation on the trials of youth.” Lady


“An intriguing debut.”  Woman and Home


“A brilliant debut thriller, which will have you gripped from the beginning . . . a murder-mystery with a beautiful love story, read it!” Essentials Magazine


“An irresistible blast of an opening which never disappoints in a journey into a complex knot of intense and ultimately destructive relationships from which the murder that is the dark core of this excellent debut novel distils.” Jon Snow


“A love story, told in reverse, a haunting tale of youth and lost love, and a poetical thriller.  A powerful debut and a distinctive voice.” Tom Hollander


“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


“A beautiful, lucid nightmare of a book. A mystery of love and murder that is elegantly written, disturbing and always compelling.” Adam Foulds


“A literary thriller wrapped up in a whodunit love story, Dymott’s debut makes for compulsive reading.” John Boyne


“…beautifully paced, from the graphic event at its start through all its shifting possibilities to its strange, logical conclusion. It is a marvellous book.”  Bernard O’Donoghue


“A stunning first novel. Alex’s almost reluctant, heartbreaking search for truth sweeps you off your feet from the first page to the last line. Elanor pulls off that rare feat of telling a riveting story with emotional drama and lyrical prose, and takes you confidently through all the twists and turns of the various testimonies without for a second losing the sense of mystery and suspense. There’s a marvelous sense of place in the book, and clever management of time.”  Miranda Hearn, author of  Nelson’s Daughter


Buy the Book:

from Penguin