Name: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Number of Pages: 512 (Hardback)
Published: February 8th 2018 by Raven Books
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
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 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. – from Goodreads
How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?
A masquerade, a murder, a day destined to repeat, and a man who has no clue who he is, where he came from, or why he is in this nightmare from which there is apparently no escape. Welcome to Blackheath.
Our lead starts out running through the forest. He knows nothing of how he came to be there, he doesn’t even know himself, or his own name, and it’s a while before someone else tells him, but he knows that the body he inhabits is not his own.
As if that’s not bad enough he believes he witnesses a murder, before being directed ‘East’ by the possible assailant, whereupon he ventures through the woods and arrives at Blackheath.
Eventually Aiden crosses paths with someone who sheds some light on his predicament…
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.
Aiden will see Blackheath and it’s inhabitants through the eyes of eight different hosts, some of the characters drawn back to this country estate where nineteen years previously another murder affected the Hardcastle family. That murder really is in the past, a fixed event in the Hardcastle family history, but now someone else is set to die, and Aiden must observe, work out who the killer is, deliver his answer to the enigmatic Plague Doctor and possibly escape Blackheath. It’s a little problematic for him when his instinct is to protect Evelyn. How can he solve a murder if the murder doesn’t take place?
The plotting must have taken so long because it’s meticulously done so that every piece of the puzzle when viewed from any angle (or host) at any time of (the same) day interlocks together perfectly. You pick up clues along the way, and eventually it all comes together with one twist after another until the story races to an exciting conclusion.
A whole array of characters inhabit Blackheath. Lords and ladies, servants, blackmailers, heiresses, and so many of them are more than they first appear. When Aiden notes that for once he wishes someone was just what they seem to be, you can see his point. Not only does he have to contend with adapting to a new host, each one being physically and mentally different, but so many of them are tied together in ways Aiden cannot possibly know at the outset. It makes trying to work out who is going to murder Evelyn all the more complex, as sometimes these people just don’t want to associate with each other.
Then there’s the fact that each host seems to have a greater hold; their own personalities become stronger, while Aiden fights to retain what was only a vague idea of who he was before.
This really is a book to savour. Not only is the plotting masterful, the writing is so so good. The air of menace and mystery is apparent in Blackheath right from the outset. The mansion house itself is falling into decay and disrepair, hiding much malice within it’s walls.
The sinister air is only amplified with the appearance of the Plague Doctor. As our initially nameless lead character wonders what on earth is going on a man appears, dressed in black, his face obscured by a plague doctor porcelain beaked mask.
This enigmatic figure intervenes at various stages, offering suggestions and advice, warning Aiden that the only way out is through him.
And if Aiden doesn’t provide the identity of Evelyn Hardcastle’s killer? His memory will be wiped, the cycle will start all over again, as it apparently has many times before.
What a prospect.
I think it was a case of right book, right time for me with this. I’ve just discovered the works of Agatha Christie, and know I want to read more of her books, then comes The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle with a similar air and theme, but all this extra, brilliant, time-travelling, mind-bending, body-swapping, murder-solving, masquerading mystery. A big old house, a race against time, a host of secretive characters, a riddle wrapped in a puzzle surrounded by a mystery. I loved every minute of this story!