Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: The Start of Everything by Emily Winslow

Buy from the Book Depository
Title: The Start of Everything
Author: Emily Winslow
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Expected Publication Date: 24 Jun 2013
Summary: (taken from The Book Depository)
Outside the city of Cambridge, the badly decomposed body of a teenage girl is found washed up in the flooded fens. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner Morris Keene are called in to establish the identity of the victim. They must work quickly to solve the mystery of her death before the press pounces on the salacious story. 
Meanwhile, Mathilde Oliver, the autistic daughter of a Cambridge don, is attempting to trace the writer of a series of letters addressed to 'Katja', a student at Corpus Christi College who doesn't seem to exist. Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, Frohmann and Keene follow a sparse trail of clues. The nameless body and obscure letters eventually lead them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor. Here they begin to unravel a web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and fresh horrors ...

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Start of Everything begins when the body of a teenage girl is found washed up in the fens. Told from multiple perspectives, the novel follows the two detectives, Chloe and her partner Morris, as they track down the identity of the girl and the person who killed her. Interwoven are stories and flashbacks from people who become involved in the murder, or who were involved in the murder when it took place.

My favorite thing about this book is that it's a smart, complicated mystery that makes you think and takes time to sift through. All too often, mysteries are dumbed down or only about the romance or the drama while the mystery takes place on the side. In The Start of Everything, we get interesting, complex characters and the mystery really takes center-stage. I'm a fan of stories that take the time to show multiple viewpoints within multiple timelines, so for me, this was perfect; however, I can see people getting confused as they adjust to this sort of storytelling.

With all these different viewpoints, Emily Winslow covers a lot of big topics and does it well -- this is a book that makes you think, and I love that. Whether it be the difficulties of living with autism, what it's like to be a woman in a job dominated by men, what it's like to come back after injury in a high-risk job, sibling rivalry, family dynamics, etc. I came into this book thinking it'd be a fun mystery, but I loved how Winslow surprised me by delving into really serious, deep issues. Kudos to her.

The characters are all fantastic. I have to say, Mathilde is my favorite and I'm sad I didn't get to see more from her perspective, but I think Winslow did an excellent job in showing how she experiences the world differently from most people.

However, the ending just didn't really cut it for me. While the mystery gets solved, I still didn't get a good feeling of resolution. Some people like that, but there were a couple of loose ends I was hoping to see a conclusion for. Also, the book is separated into parts and the way the story moves through these parts is a bit jarring. I didn't mind the multiple perspectives, but the timeline was a bit strange to follow and took some getting used to. Again, this isn't a terrible thing, but it did take me out of the story a little bit.

Despite that, there is so much to love about The Start of Everything. The writing is beautiful, funny, and smart, and the mystery itself is just fantastic.

*Thank you to The Book Depository for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my honest review.*