Reviews

Review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

36337550SYNOPSIS:

The Rules of Blackheath:

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…

***

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

I didn’t expect to tear into this book, but I did—there was just so much restlessness in my reading, an urgency to reach the ending. It’s been days and I am still so keenly, strangely, extensively aware of explosions still taking place inside my head. Honestly? If Hollywood doesn’t turn this into a movie….I will personally riot.

So, what’s this book about?

Our narrator wakes up in a dripping forest, with nothing but the shade of an old unnameable fear, and the eerie sensation of being followed, an invisible gaze locked on his back. He has no recollection of who he is, and he has no more notion how he got there than he did the moon. But his head is firing thought after thought that can’t seem to complete themselves and they all begin with a name: Anna, and never seem to end.

He later learns that his name is Aiden Bishop and he’s trapped inside a stranger’s body. A masked figure curtly informs him that he must unveil a murder disguised as to not look like one if he wants to earn his release, and he must do so by reliving the day of the murder eight times, but each morning he will wake up in the body of a foreign soul. If he fails to uncover the name of the would-be murderer, he will return to the first day, memory moped clean, and start all over again as he has apparently already done innumerable times before.

Matters are made worse when Aiden realizes he isn’t the only one carried so long here and there on a stream and washed now to this strange shore: two other people are also ensnarled inside this time loop, and a knife-wielding Footman is out for their blood.

Aiden, Anna and the anonymous rivals are pieces on the game board, and there is everything at stake.

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?” 

Normalcy has its place, but you won’t find it in this book. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a dazzling, mind-bending murder mystery…without a murder. It’s a locked-room thriller with a nearly imperceptible warp wavering in its center. A brilliantly balanced knife’s edge of a book—unfolding gradually but deliberately, with secrets unveiled as more lies are told. Every sentence was a labyrinth to navigate and my mind often felt like a door blown open in a storm. The whole experience of reading this book felt like an elaborate lie to me, some made-up fantasyland I was locked in for a set number of hours a day. And like Aiden, every moment, I was caught between another dead end and another lead. So many pieces of the story but how the hell do they fit together?

In richness of ideas, and in glory of sentences, this book is spectacular. I was deeply impressed by the sense of scope, the minute turnings of characters and their choices and how those ripples affect other players, by the hints strewn like breadcrumbs throughout the narrative and the puzzle pieces that were constantly moving around. This was genuinely brilliant and so intricately crafted and I’m still left marveling at how one person’s brain can contain multitudes.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle might be focused on the story of Aiden Bishop but the stories of many others are caught up in the wheel of his, and as that wheel turns, so do these many intertwined lives and fates. The narration lingers in the memories and lives of each “host”, dipping in and out of them like toes in a pool. The book makes you question what you know about these characters, their lives and their secrets. Everyone is unreliable, everything is questionable. Aiden’s very sense of self is threatened to be overruled by the personalities of his hosts, most of which were nasty pieces of work: more than slightly sexist, selfish, manipulative, abusive, more often than not physical and moral cowards—yet still compelling even when you can’t bring yourself to like them even a little bit, and I think that says a lot for the author’s skill.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle corkscrews into a tighter and tighter coil with every page and it isn’t long before Aiden’s constant picking at the stray threads of his new jarring reality makes the whole come apart, revealing far more than was ever dreamt of. I did not see that ending coming at all, and I was left astounded into an awed slow-clap at everything the author has accomplished here.

When I flipped that last page, all I could do was breathe out, with the kind of eloquence and poise perfectly befitting the situation:

“Holy shit. What did I just read?”

❗️TRIGGER WARNINGS❗️murder, suicide, discussions around rape and sexual abuse, alcohol and drug use, fatphobia.

12 thoughts on “Review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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