Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: The Start of Everything

Summary: In this stunning psychological thriller for readers of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, and Donna Tartt, Emily Winslow has crafted a literary prism told through the eyes of her many intricately drawn characters. Masterly and mesmerizing, The Start of Everything will captivate until the very last page.

“If you don’t want to see me again, say so. But it’s not right to say nothing. It’s not right to go silent. You know what to do.”

Cambridge, England: Outside the city, the badly decomposed body of a teenage girl has washed up in the flooded fens. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, must work quickly to identify the victim before the press takes off with the salacious story.

Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, the detectives follow scant clues toward the identity of the dead girl. Eventually, their search leads them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor where, over the course of one Christmas holiday, three families, two nannies, and one young writer were snowed in together. Chloe Frohmann begins to unravel a tangled web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and freshly committed horrors. But in order to reveal the truth—about misaddressed letters, a devastating affair, and a murdered teenager—she may have to betray her partner. -- Delacorte Press

A few years ago, I reviewed THE WHOLE WORLD by Emily Winslow. I was extremely impressed with the mystery aspect of the story and how well she brought the setting to life; however, it was her ability to tell the story from various characters' points of view that really made the book special to me. So when her latest novel THE START OF EVERYTHING was recently published, I most definitely wanted to read it. I am thrilled to say that I enjoyed this novel even more than her first one.

THE START OF EVERYTHING begins when a teenage girl is found dead in the flooded fens. Detectives Chloe Frohmann and her partner Morris Keene are back together working the case after Keene returns from a job-related injury, and they are feeling pressure to solve the case. The case takes them from Cambridge University to a country manor where they learn that some suspicious events took place on a Christmas holiday. As they struggle to figure out the murder, Frohmann and Keene discover many secrets, including ones that could ultimately destroy families and even lives.

It's funny, but when I went back and read my review for THE WHOLE WORLD, I found that much of what I appreciated about that novel still held true for this one. Once again, Ms. Winslow wove a wonderfully complex psychological thriller with interesting characters. In addition, she again brought the setting of Cambridge, England to life; and she even told the story through the viewpoints of various characters. All in all, it was an outstanding psychological thriller that managed to provide a few surprises for me along the way.

There were a few aspects of this story that really stood out for me. First of all, I found the characters of Frohmann and Keene to be incredibly interesting and I loved the dynamics of their relationship. I hesitate to go into too much detail for fear of giving away some spoilers; however, suffice it to say that they were well-developed characters who were both dealing with their fair share of baggage. I enjoyed seeing how they related to each other after Keene's accident and I thought the author did a great job of showing how Keene was dealing (and not dealing) with his injuries.

Another really quality aspect of THE START OF EVERYTHING was how Ms. Winslow decided to tell the story. Like she did in THE WHOLE WORLD, she chose to give many viewpoints of the story as well as bouncing back and forth between the present and the past. All of her transitions were extremely smooth and I thought the story moved along at a very brisk pace. However, what really impressed me was how well she captured the individual voices of the characters. And I'm not talking two or even three different characters' voices. She managed to create voices for the detectives, the suspects, and even the victims, and all of them were distinct. I imagine that must have been a difficult task to undertake and to pull it off really says something about Ms. Winslow's writing skills.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the murder mystery in this story. I thought it was very well done and I wasn't entirely sure which direction the story was going to take. Needless to say, I couldn't put together the entire mystery and motives; however, I did pick up on a few things. I absolutely loved how the book seemed almost disjointed to me some of the time since there were so many characters' voices, but the way everything eventually came together was brilliant!

I think THE START OF EVERYTHING would work well for book clubs since it is a thought-provoking thriller. There is a reading guide available six questions and Ms. Winslow is available to meet with groups. I found so many of the characters and their actions to be interesting so you could definitely find plenty to discuss there. However, there are also some themes in the story including loss, grief, change, fear, betrayal, lies, parent/child relationships, forgiveness, and redemption that are ripe for analysis.

I enjoyed THE START OF EVERYTHING a great deal and found it to be an extremely well written literary mystery. Highly recommended.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Ms. Winslow has written a fantastic essay for Book Club Exchange... plus there will also be a giveaway for THE START OF EVERYTHING.

Thanks to Tandem Literary for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Sandy Nawrot said...

OK I am interested. I like stories that are told from different viewpoints. I need to investigate!

Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews said...

This is the first time I have come across this title - sounds right up my alley - great review.

bermudaonion said...

I love it when a story (especially a mystery) is told from multiple viewpoints. This sounds like a winner!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well, gosh, you sort of got me by the Tana French parallels. But needless to say I would have to start at the beginning of the series! But I'm marking it down now!

Beth F said...

This is the line that caught my attention: "wonderfully complex psychological thriller with interesting characters" -- sounds good for me.

I'll be back tomorrow. :)

Beth Hoffman said...

I'd don't recall hearing of this book before your post, and I think I'd really enjoy it. Terrific review, Julie! I'm adding it to my list.

Anonymous said...

This sounds good!