The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

I would like to thank Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (UK & ANZ) for an advance copy of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

A man wakes up in a forest covered in cuts and when he hears a gunshot he is sure Anna is dead. How he knows this is a bit of a mystery as he has no other memories. When he gets back to the house he is staying at he learns his name is Dr Sebastian Bell but he soon learns that his name is Aiden Bishop and that he has 8 days to solve the mystery of the death of Evelyn Hardcastle or else have his memories erased and go back through the same loop ad nauseum until he solves it. To add a little spice to his endeavour the 8 days will all be a repeat of this day with Aiden inhabiting a different character.

Wow, this is an interesting read - Groundhog Day on steroids but temporarily ignoring this window dressing it has an excellent mystery at the heart of it which held me enthralled at the start and ending (it got a bit repetitious in the middle). It is difficult to say much more without spoilers but it is compulsive reading.

The novel is told in the first person which, given the fact that Aiden inhabits different personalities and carries the information he has gathered with him, is the only practical way of telling the story. It is incredibly well done from his initial confusion to his determination to solve the mystery and escape. The detail in the novel can be confusing at times and I'm not sure I followed all his reasoning, in fact I think a second reading might make some of it clearer. The irony of this statement when Aiden lives the same day 8 times is not lost on me!

I like the idea of seeing the same events from different perspectives and positions of knowledge. It makes the reader see things differently and question what they can accept as fact. I do think, however, that 8 different characters is a few too many and drags the novel down a bit in the middle. The other problem with this is juggling Aiden's strong personality with that of the character he is inhabiting. He is told frequently that he's submerging his own personality in that of his current host but I don't see it as his voice comes through strongly.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an extremely clever novel and my mind boggles at the thought of the planning that went into it but it is also well written and quite compulsive. I don't think I have ever read another novel like it and for that I have no hesitation in recommending it as a good read.
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First of all, I'd like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every reader knows that, every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds you just how much you love reading, and that is absolutely what The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle did for me. I’ve read a few other books this year that I adored, but not many, and most of them were slow reads where I was pausing frequently to savour all the emotion they stirred up - it’s been far too long since the last time a book had me so hooked that I was loath to put it down for even a moment. And then I started Seven Deaths, and was utterly unable to stop: I flew through the pages, reading the latter 90% of the book in 2 days flat, during which time I managed to a) be late for work; b) almost forget to have dinner; c) stay up too late to finish it - if that’s not a glowing review, I don’t know what is!

But enough about me and my reading experience - let’s get into the reasons why this book is so great.

The most important thing you need to know about it is that it is diabolically, ridiculously clever. This is a murder mystery, but with a time-travelling, body-swapping twist - as you’ll know if you’ve read the summary, our protagonist Aiden Bishop is doomed to re-live the day of Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder at her parents’ crumbling mansion until he solves the mystery of who killed her, and each day he wakes up in the body of a different guest or servant, reliving the day from their perspective and using their skills to help him in his investigation. What a concept, am I right?

The scope and ambition are just staggering - the amount of planning and care that went into this novel shines through every page, as Stuart Turton juggles nigh infinite plotlines, timelines, reveals, characters, secrets and lies with apparent ease. But despite the astonishingly intricate plot, there is no loose thread left dangling, no avenue of possibility left unexplored, not a single plot hole that I picked up on. It’s astounding, even more so for the fact that it’s a debut novel.

It also gave me a new appreciation for the combination of a first-person narrative told in the present tense - it’s so rarely done right that I usually groan inwardly every time I open a new book and see it on the first page. But here, it was perfect - the reader shares every moment of doubt and confusion that Aiden feels, making for a truly immersive reading experience. This novel simply wouldn’t have worked if it was written any other way, because the true joy of it is that feeling of having been plunged into the sinister world of Blackheath yourself, so that the characters’ desperation to solve the mystery almost becomes your own; no other writing style could have pitched the tension that sings through every page so perfectly. Plus, Aiden’s narrative voice is absolutely wonderful.

I’m actually really struggling with this review, because there are so many reveals and twists that saying much more about the plot would inevitably lead into spoiler territory, but I will say that while it would be more than reasonable to recommend this book simply based on the cleverness of the plot - which is, as I may have mentioned once or twice, an utter delight - there is also an emotional heart to the story. Identity is the key theme that runs through the core of this book, from the very first page to the closing words, and not just because Aiden wakes up as a different person each day, although that is of course a large part of it - after all, how can he hold onto himself when he’s wearing someone else’s face and mind? But also, who is he outside of Blackheath? How does a person change when they don a mask? Is anyone’s personality ever set in stone, and is it possible to find redemption through changing who you are? This is a fast-paced firecracker of a novel (aside from the first 60 pages or so, which are mostly slower, though just as suspenseful), but it’s scattered with beautiful moments of quiet reflection, too.

All in all, I was delighted by The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - it was such a unique, mind-bending reading experience that I truly don’t know how any other murder mystery will ever live up to it. (I’ve also been dreaming about murder mysteries for the past two nights - make of that what you will). The ending wasn’t actually my favourite part of the story (which is unusual, as the ending is the strongest part of almost all of my other favourite books), but the wild ride leading up to it was exhilarating, page-turning, utterly addictive reading. I could not recommend this book any more highly.
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If ever there was a perfect book to read while curled up by the fire on a bleak autumn night, this is it. It’s a little hard to know quite how to describe Stu Turton’s Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, so here are a few adjectives: Mysterious. Thrilling. Twisty. Turny. Gothic. Riveting. 

It’s also hard to talk about the book without giving too much away spoiler-wise. On the face of it, it’s a whodunit mystery in the classic Agatha Christie type vein. But it also has a supernatural cast. The main character, one Aiden Bishop, is tasked with solving the crime (namely, the murder of the eponymous Miss Evelyn Hardcastle) over eight days -by taking on same day over and over again, each time in the body/persona of eight different people. He wakes up in the first host, in the woods on the estate of a large crumbling mansion house where a large party of guests have gathered for a rather curious celebration. From that moment it’s a down the rabbit hole race against time and nefarious enemies to provide an answer as to who killed Evelyn- and in doing so to escape the endless time loop in which he is trapped. 

If it all sounds a bit bonkers, well, it is- but it works. The initial few chapters do require a little bit of patience as the first character does seem to spend a lot of time flailing around not knowing what is going on, which means the reader is also similarly in the dark to a large degree. However Turton did a fine job in holding my interest as he sets up the premise and before long I found myself firmly engaged in the merry dance, being led along with Aiden Bishop through the maze of the pages. At times the plot becomes just that wee bit convoluted to the point where I was tempted to get out a notebook to sketch some timescales to keep everything straight- but it’s manageable and if you like puzzles, you will love this. As this was an ARC via Netgalley my copy did not contain maps or floor plans which I think would be very useful to keep one’s bearings.

At the conclusion I have to say there were some aspects I still found somewhat confusing but that’s probably more due to the breakneck pace of my reading, as I was desperate to know how it ended. It's definitely the sort of book that would benefit from a more leisurely re-read to pick up on all the things I missed. I’m also not entirely satisfied with the ending-I'll say no more so as not to give anything away but my overall feeling is that in some ways, this book is the epitome of the journey being better than the destination. And what a journey it is. I would definitely recommend this is an absolute cracker of a novel- original, fiendishly clever and hugely enjoyable.
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Thanks Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) and netgalley for this ARC.

This is a convoluted, crazy, mental side show of a book. You won't know up from down by the time you finish!
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Stuart Turton goes all out in this, his debut novel.  Here we find ourselves transported to Blackheath House and its immediate environs.  The time is somewhere between the Wars and as we are going to find out, a murder is going to be committed tonight.  Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered, but it won’t look like a homicide.

Therefore, we have here all the elements of a traditional country house mystery, but of course there is more to this book than just that.  As we see our main character and narrator awakens and doesn’t really know where he is or what he is doing, and so he finds out things as they are revealed by Anna and a man dressed as a medieval plague doctor.  And so, we know our character will awaken each day for a limited number of days as a different person in the house, their mission to find out who the killer is.

There are a few other rules and regulations that have to be adhered to, and there is no escape from Blackheath until the killer is identified.  As we read this book then we find out more about the main character and who they really are, and we also find out more about Anna and also the plague doctor, and his purpose.

As a standard whodunit this works perfectly well, but with all the other layers that are added this becomes even more of an engaging and interesting read.  Even the guests at the house and the date for this event are slightly macabre and we are also taken back to a crime committed in the past.  Of course, as you read this you will want to work out the murder mystery for yourself, but you will also be trying to work out the other mysteries that surround you in this tale.

You will also learn things along the way, that there are others needing to solve the crime and other such clues.  Full of crime, blackmail, machinations and murder this is a book that you can thoroughly lose yourself in, making for compulsive reading, and one that raises questions such as retribution and rehabilitation as well as salvation.  Are you ready to enter Blackheath House and take on this gripping mystery?

I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes.
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