This is my review of Every Contact Leaves A Trace by Elanor Dymott.
I too obtained this book on the strength of a newspaper review but came to the sad conclusion it is not worth reading.
In a Morse-like setting, without the high body count, the book commences with a man imagining his wife's brutal murder after his discovery of her body six months earlier in the gardens of Worcester College – obligingly illustrated by a neat plan at the end – and making me instantly suspicious that this was written to press the right reader buttons e.g. American seduced by the gleaming spires of Oxford. Also, after such a dramatic little prologue, why proceed to drown us in a morass of verbiage?
I accept that this book is less a murder mystery and more a psychological study of a man discovering facts about his wife after her death. I do not mind slow pace, unappealing main characters or even an author perhaps unconsciously complacent with an elitist sense of having experienced Oxford – all of which could be made to count against, say, the recent Man Booker winner Julian Barnes, although I would not do so. What makes this book intolerable for me is the leaden, long-winded. overwritten prose (evident even in the title), unrelieved by insights, irony or flashes of humour.