Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Published: February 8th, 2018 (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Synopsis: At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.
Evelyn Hardcastle has returned home after years living abroad in Paris, and her parents have planned a grand party at the isolated family manor, Blackheath, to celebrate. But Blackheath holds a dark past – it is the place where the youngest Hardcastle son, Thomas was murdered, and the guests invited to this gala are the very same guests who were in the house on that fateful day, nineteen years ago. But this time, the murder is Evelyn’s own. Aiden Bishop wakes up in the body of one of the guests with no memories of his own, and is told that the only way for him to escape Blackheath is to solve Evelyn’s murder. He repeats the same day over and over in the bodies of eight different hosts as he attempts to unravel the mystery and beat an enemy he knows nothing about, seeing the events of the day that lead up to Evelyn’s death from different perspectives. Every guest in the house has their own secrets, and as a sinister figure is on the prowl to murder Aiden’s hosts before he can find the truth, time is running out fast.
I’ve been meaning to get to this one for quite some time! I initially thought this was a mystery novel, but it’s more of a mystery/thriller leaning into paranormal, which is a mix of genres I’ve never tried before, and it was just so different from what I usually read! The feel of the book is somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie, and it was the most intriguing mystery I’ve come across in a while. With each host Aiden wakes up in, another piece of the puzzle is revealed, which somehow adds yet another layer to an already complicated tale. I literally didn’t even try to solve the mystery because I was so caught up in the story as the twists keep coming right until the end. It’s best to just let the story pull you along for the ride with this one.
What was interesting is that the plotline was not linear. Each time Aiden falls asleep, he jumps into another host whose day he did not finish, which gives us multiple threads to consider, as an event that occurs in one chapter doesn’t become clear until several chapters later, when another host sets the chain of events in motion. Non-linear narration is something I typically don’t like, but much to my surprise, this was not only easy to follow (even if things were horribly confusing for the first 25% of the book), but also so much fun! From the mysterious Plague Doctor, to the murderous footman, and the suspiciously helpful Anna (whose name is the only thing Aiden remembers on waking), not to mention the guests and even the hosts of the party, none of whom are particularly pleasant characters, everyone seems to be a suspect in a house full of secrets and spiteful intentions hiding behind the veneer of a grand gala. Seeing Aiden live through the day as various guests, especially when it becomes clear that the host’s personality can take over and affect his actions, was particularly interesting. And let’s not even get into the fact that Aiden isn’t the only contestant in this game – there are others attempting to solve the same mystery, and only one can win and escape the cycle.
The only plot point that I didn’t like much was the reason behind why Aiden is even in this situation. I would have liked something more exciting and I still have a lot of questions that I guess we’re just supposed to chalk up to paranormal weirdness that can’t be answered? Not to mention, the whole story behind this and Aiden’s relation to Anna and how that is resolved, if you consider what it would mean outside Blackheath once everything is said and done, it makes no sense at all. The real problem here is that Aiden is torn between finding the murderer, finding Anna (who he doesn’t know, but bizarrely enough, seems to trust) and stopping the crime from being committed at all, while also trying to hold onto himself while living the day through his hosts, which I felt led to a lot of meandering in the narration. What I found most annoying was Aiden’s propensity to dwell way too much on the life and personality of his current host. It makes sense for the first time or two that he experiences the jump, but once he understands what’s going on and what exactly is at stake, one would think he would jump straight into that person’s day and get to investigating, rather than feeling sorry for what a terrible person he is inhabiting.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was an interesting read, and the reveal of the murderer was quite shocking and entirely unexpected. It’s certainly a very clever concept, with a refreshing twist on Groundhog Day, and the setting of the 1920s manor house provided a great feel to the story. I do wonder though, why none of Aiden’s eight hosts were any of the women in the house. I was almost sure he would wake up as Lady Helena which would have been really interesting (the reveals in the last couple of chapters aside), or even as the murderer themself. Anyway, this was a fun, well-written read and I would definitely recommend this for fans of mysteries or thrillers.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!