The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
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Publication date: 18 September 2018
I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine you wake up one morning in the middle of a forest, with no recollection of what happened the night before, or even who you are… and when you find your way back to safety in an immense country house called Blackheath, everyone there seems to know you but you have no idea who they are. Imagine that shortly after that, you encounter a mysterious messenger who explains to you that someone is going to die tonight, and that the only way you can escape this place is by solving their murder… what would you do? Run away or start investigating?
Aiden Bishop is trapped in Blackheath where, inevitably, Evelyn Hardcastle will meet her death each night at 11pm, unless he can solve her murder and break the cycle. To do so, Aiden is given eight days and eight “hosts” (guests to inhabit for one day). If he cannot solve the murder in the time given, his memories will be wiped and the cycle will begin again. But Aiden isn’t the only person trapped in Blackheath. Among the guests are two other persons, just like him, investigating to save their lives. But only one of them can escape…
Blimey, this book was insane! If I had to define it I would say it’s a crossover between Groundhog Day and Agatha Christie or even a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Criminal Minds. Blackheath is a huge estate owned by the Hardcastle family and on the 19th anniversary of their son’s death, the lady of the house decided to throw a party, inviting the very same people that were present 19 years ago when her son died. It reminded me of Agatha Christie in the way that the action is set in one place and all the characters are the same throughout the book. It’s also set in a time where maids and servants were still a thing hence the Pride and Prejudice vibes. It also reminded me of Groundhog Day because Aiden repeats the same day again and again until solving the murder, and of Criminal Minds because the story gets dark really quickly and Aiden will have to observe the guests’ personalities and habits to help in his investigation.
The story is incredibly complex, there are endless characters, each with their own quirks and background stories and we go through so many clues trying to solve Evelyn’s murder that it is impossible to keep track of them all (but in a good way, like where they stay somewhere in your brain and start to make more sense as the story advances). This is a book that made me guess, page after page, what was going on as it took me through Aiden’s investigation and I tried to decipher the clues. I had a few different theories at some point, but the book outsmarted me every time and this is my favourite kind of book, where it makes me think really hard until I eventually have to give up and admit that the only way I’ll make sense of it is to just read on.
It’s a pretty long book (over 500 pages) and reading it in a week was a challenge but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The story is so complex that it needs the pages to unfold itself, and every single chapter is a cliffhanger. Once again, I am very surprised that this is a debut novel, as it is astonishingly brilliant. So much work (and post-it notes!) must have gone into it!
The only criticism I have about this is that I could have done with a floorplan of the country house since it is huge and it’s sometimes hard to picture it all in your own mind, but after snooping around on Amazon I realised that the book actually does have a floorplan, it’s only my advanced copy that didn’t, so I guess I can’t even fault it on a single thing.
If you’re into your murder mysteries, do get your hand on it, you won’t be disappointed!
So, what was your favourite book this summer? For me, it’s a toss up between this one and The Psychology of Time Travel that I read the other week.