Hardcover, US, 512 pagesExpected publication: September 18th 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?
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 is quite what they seem.
Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.
Until now, I’d only witnessed my fellow guests in their handfuls, their spite spread thin across the house. To be ensnared among them all, as I am now, is something else entirely, and the further I descend into the uproar, the thicker their malice seems to become. Most of the men look to have spent the afternoon soaking in their cups and are staggering instead of dancing, snarling and starting, their conduct savage. Young women throw their heads back and laugh, their makeup running and hair coming loose as they’re passed from body to body, goading a small group of wives who’ve grouped together for safety, wary of these panting, wild-eyed creatures. Nothing like a mask to reveal somebody’s true nature…All of this is wrong. The celebration is too desperate. This is the last party before Gomorrah fell…
Whew, what a ride! Stuart Turton’s debut novel is the kind of debut we all yearn for: explosive, energetic, engaging and truly something fresh and new on the scene. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a brilliant, high-concept murder mystery that had the cogs in my mind turning from the very start (imagine waking up in the forest with no memory of who you are and immediately seeing a young woman murdered!). This, in fact, was the first mystery narrative in a very long time that has made me feel like I was part of the story—immersed in the environment—and the first that pulled me in to such a degree that I felt compelled to actively try to unravel the whodunnit mystery right along with the characters.
Whodunnit and why!
Turton’s atmospheric world is so moody and immersive you’ll feel you should be smoking a pipe with a monocle as you devour it. It was so deliciously wrapped in a sort of British noir, complete with the “party at a country estate” of so many classic murder mysteries. Described by its publisher as “Gosford Park meets Inception by way of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express,” this book lived up to the hype and description in a big way!
Aiden Bishop is destined to relive the same day over and over again, in eight different bodies, until he can solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. If he does not succeed at the end of that time, the loop restarts and he loses all of his memories of the previous loop, forcing him to start over from scratch with even the basics – who am I? What am I doing here? He realizes that he is both the hunted and the hunter, an innocent and a deceiver, in this highbrow whodunnit.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was both intelligent and intellectual, well-paced and deserving of all 500 pages it took up. In a lot of ways, The Seven Deaths was unlike any novel I’ve read before. Skillfully woven together, it was the ultimate literary puzzle. The plot was complex in a baroque but fascinating sort of way, and all the threads Turton spun came together in the end—no stone left unturned, no end left loose. With so many plots converging at once, that was quite the high feat to pull off, but you’ll find it done here superbly in this debut novel. Stuart Turton offers veritable craft in the intricacy of his plotting, a kind of craft that I rarely see anymore. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a mind-bender complete with time leaps and multiple murders seen from multiple angles all on this same day that keeps repeating itself over and over again.
The prose was lyrical—honestly, leaning toward flowery—but it is the intricacy of the plot and the atmosphere surrounding these characters that Turton allows to really shine here. Yes, there were moments when this novel graced the line between intricacy and confusion, but it all unraveled splendidly in the end. It was a puzzle of a read; there were moments when the pieces wouldn’t fit and you’d have to scrap it all and start over. For some, that may present as a frustrating experience, but this novel is a real treat to those who love mindbenders, murder mysteries, puzzles and logic games. If that’s you, I highly recommend this novel! Also, if the “Gosford Park/Inception/Agatha Christie” description got your heart racing, then this is the read for you! The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle grabbed me and held me from the very start, probably the most veritable page turner I’ve encountered so far this year, and that’s no easy feat. For such high praise and phenomenal plotting, I give Turton’s debut novel a very strong 4.5 stars. ****
*I received an advance-read copy of the book from the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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