Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
By Stuart Turton
Published by Raven Books (8 February 2018)

Publisher's description
'Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. 
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...

My verdict
I wrote so many notes while reading this book yet I’m writing this review without them, as I'm not sure they make much sense. I finished The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle with an aching head and a sense of relief, as if I'd completed a mental marathon. I read this alongside three other people and I'm so glad that I did (or rather, we did), as we had so much, possibly too much, to discuss along the way.

Evelyn Hardcastle dies at Blackheath House during a party. Not just once, but seven times, and will then do so again and again - unless Aiden can solve her murder and discover the culprit, allowing him to escape Blackheath House and his 'Groundhog Day' cycle. As each day begins, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different party guest. Each time Aiden becomes his host, he learns more about them - their beliefs, their prejudices, their emotions and more. But who is Aiden? Who is the killer? And will Aiden succeed in his task?

Many people will have read comparisons with Quantum Leap, Agatha Christie and Cluedo, and every one of these is right. This book is a combination of time travelling, body leaping and puzzle solving. A murder mystery written in Agatha Christie style that pulled me in and wouldn't let me leave (like Aiden) until I'd turned the final page. I was mesmerised by the prose and the underlying plot. Some guests were far more likeable than others and each had their own agenda, so it was difficult to know who to trust. I guessed some minor details and had suspicions about major ones, but nothing prepared me for what was in store.

I’m naturally a logical person, but trying to apply logic to this book didn't seem to work, as I was totally lost at times, trying to fathom it all out in my head - not just the murder mystery, but the whole concept. I was left with several questions, so I'm tempted to read it again from the start and think of it as a giant logic puzzle by creating a spider chart on the wall. But then part of me isn't sure I'll ever make sense of it.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a plotting masterpiece and was, I assume, a plotting headache for the author. I wouldn't call it a relaxing read if, like me, you're trying to work it out as you go. But it was an enjoyable experience overall, highly entertaining and a challenge. Be prepared to lose not only several hours of reading time, but your mind too.

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