The Start of Everything
by Emily Winslow



Delacorte Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-385-34290-2.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 03/04/2013

Fiction: Mainstream; Fiction: Mystery; Fiction: Thriller

By the very nature of its writing, a "psychological thriller," as this book is classified, is complex, detailed and angst-ridden. The Start of Everything plays upon the complexity of its characters, and revels in providing deepening twists to the ongoing plots. The intrigue weaves through the personalities of several of the individuals, which makes it often difficult to follow and requires a careful reading, with attention paid to the temperaments, traits, and behaviors of each of the diverse characters.

The narratives that author Emily Winslow weaves in this story are reminiscent of quilt-making; each sub-plot adds to the creation of a block of the storyline, and over time, a quilt is created. Winslow is erudite in her storytelling and detailed in her settings. The two detectives who take the initial reins of the tale are dedicated to their jobs. Detective Inspectors Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, are working against the pressures of time and the eagerness of a sensation-seeking press. The unidentified teenage girl is found dead in a flooded area of the marshlands, and families fear for their own girls. This plot line plays into the thriller aspect of Winslow's writing.

Classic aspects of mysteries abound in the continuing story. A university setting (Cambridge), a moldering mansion snowbound with a houseful of families, and a bizarre lost-letters office keeps the reader guessing. The story is very much a police procedural, and the characters of Frohmann and Keene play a vital part in moving the action forward, and, indeed, becoming entwined in the very basics of murder. As the story's narratives switch from person to person, the reader flounders for a while, looking in one direction while the story swiftly moves in another direction all together. Winslow's intent, I believe, is to entrance the intelligent reader with sleight of hand, doling out information subtly and discretely, not withholding information, but dealing it out so subliminally that it can be easily missed.

The relationship between the two detectives, as well as the diversity of the people who are caught up in the wheels within wheels, can make it difficult to follow all that is going on. The nature of some of the sub-plots (such as child abuse, handicaps both mental and physical, and the need of some readers to turn away from painful topics) makes up the psychological part of the novel, while sending shivers down the spine, in the classic thriller mode. Winslow uses a rather unique way of seguing from one point-of-view to another, which the reader needs to learn to appreciate. If you are a fan of the British thriller, the country-house mystery or the twisty, turning, plotting technique, this is the ideal book to read. It is Winslow's second police procedural, and her fan base should be ever-increasing with future books.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Emily Winslow is an American writer living in Cambridge, England. The Whole World, her first novel, came out from Delacorte Press (Random House USA) in 2010. Visit her website.

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