By: Emily Winslow
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 11, 2013
Emily Winslow spins a complicated web of mystery and intrigue in her latest novel, The Start of Everything.
The story takes place near Cambridge University, England and begins with the introduction of Mathilde Oliver—a young woman with multiple phobias. It seems she has severe intimacy issues. The detestable notion of anything or anyone coming in contact with her is unconscionable. She works in the Registrar’s office at Cambridge University and it seems her greatest challenge in life is to maintain autonomy. Unbeknownst to her co-workers, she is on a mission to locate Katye, a mystery lady who keeps receiving letters from Stephen. Sadly, the letters are not making it to their intended recipient because while Mathilde keeps intercepting them, she has no idea who this woman is. However, it is Mathilde’s personal goal to locate Katye.
As the story unfolds, two more characters are introduced—newly appointed Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and DCI Morris Keene of the Major Investigations division. They’ve been assigned to solve the mystery of the extremely bloated and decomposed body found in the drainage ditch off B1040 road near the University. Together, they must identify the remains and determine how it got there and why. If only it were that easy… It seems Frohmann has more to prove than solving the case with her partner, Keene. The tides have changed as well as roles. Frohmann is the lead detective now. Keene has recently returned to his post after recovering from a near-death, on-the-job occurrence. His ‘A’ game will never rise again thanks to permanent injuries sustained from the experience. Aside from solving the case, Frohmann’s added challenge will be to learn how to navigate her new appointment. She is still proving herself to her less than supportive male peers. This is only one of the many mounting challenges the two face as they delve into solving the crime.
I am inspired by Ms. Winslow’s explicit approach as she develops each character; particularly with the eccentricities and depth of Mathilde Oliver’s obsessive compulsive behaviors and oddities. Ms. Winslow is in tune with her art to bringing a character to life. I am consistently impressed with authors who achieve this with nothing more in their tool bag than words and the wisdom to know where to place them on the pages. Ms. Winslow gets how to do this and has achieved a sound delivery of an intriguing who-done-it with rich character development as a result. However, her ability is not solely reserved for Mathilde. Rather, when she embellishes the frustrations and adaptations Detective Keene must learn to accept, there were periods when I wanted to step into the story, grab him by the shoulders and implore him to accept the inadequacies he now has in his life and move on. She accomplishes this premise by infusing Chloe Frohmann’s personality as temperance to Keene’s frustrations. As a result, Ms. Winslow has created a woman of substance in Chloe Frohmann’s persona. There are multiple twists to this plot which beckons the reader to pay attention. This is not to say the story is tedious and confusing as much as it is engaging. Well done Ms. Winslow. I look forward to reading your next body of work.
Quill says: An enjoyable mystery with the perfect blend of intrigue supported by full-bodied and credible characters.