📑Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
"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." - Goodreads
I’m going to start off by saying I don’t read enough murder mysteries (though I feel like I’d enjoy them, I do love me my puzzles) so I can’t really judge the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on a larger/based on the genre scale. But if we’re going to judge this book by itself, I truly enjoyed it. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle tells the story of Aiden who wakes up one day in the forest with no recollection of who or where he is and only a name in mind “Anna.” And then he hears a scream and a gunshot. As Aiden goes through the day he finds out that he is not in fact, himself, but inhabiting a “host,” one of the guests attending a grand party by the Hardcastles at Blackheath manor. There is only one way he can escape, by figuring out who murdered Evelyn Hardcastle.
Each day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at the ball held in her honour. Each day, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest and relives it from their perspective, with the memories of his previous hosts intact and witnesses Evelyn’s death. But Aiden only has 8 hosts to solve the murder, and there are other forces at play in Blackheath intent on getting the answers before him, by any means necessary.
Honestly, The premise drew me in, part Clue, part Agatha Christie, part Groundhog Day (this month’s book club theme!), part First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Mystery and murder and scandal and a masked ball, what wasn’t there to like?
The novel has a bit of a slow start, but begins to pick up and more or less keep its pace fairly quickly. I think the little twist of our protagonist waking up in the body of a different guest/reliving the day and compounding memories was very clever in terms of a murder mystery. You, as a reader, are confused with him and piece together the mystery, the secrets and scandals of Blackheath together.
You get to see the same events from different perspectives and filtered through different personalities and, with each new “host” you get different interpretations. Sometimes this is frustrating, because as someone who does read the occasional science fiction novel, I couldn’t help wonder about the “rules” of this world/realm as I was reading. Could Aiden actually change anything by changing the behavior of his hosts or was everything pre-ordained, a self-fulfilled prophecy so to speak? Well, you’ll have to read to find out.
But for the most part, the story was very intriguing. Every time new information would reveal itself I would think back on what I already knew and occasionally had the sense of “ooooh, I get it.” Most of the guests that Aiden inhabited had their own distinct personality, their quirks, strengths, and vices that differentiated them from each other (although, to be honest, if you ask me to name them all I don’t think I could), with a few that kind of blended into each other. I think the issue here is that with 8 hosts, several threads of mysteries to untangle (both past and ongoing), character development kind of falls on the wayside. I’m not sure if I really liked the twist/reveal at the end of the story, I was waiting for some huge revelation to match the unique premise but felt what actually was revealed was a bit. Meh.
At the same time I’d like to reiterate that I don’t read many murder-mystery and I don’t know what what, if anything, would have been better (or actually make sense) so I’m not going to judge it too harshly for that. Also, the very concept of Blackheath as a place seems simultaneously ill-thought out (it’ll make sense if you read it) and very interesting, but that is addressed by the characters themselves so I’m okay with that. Overall, I recommend The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for anyone who likes a good murder mystery, with a twist.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
“I’m going mad, aren’t I?” I say, looking at him over the top of the mirror.
“Of course not,” days the Plague Doctor. “Madness would be an escape and there’s only one way to escape Blackheath.”
The future isn’t a warning my friend, it’s a promise, and it won’t be broken by us.
They’re talking quietly and moving slowly, porcelain people riddled with cracks.
So many memories and secrets, so many burdens. Every life has such weight. I don’t know how anybody carries even one.
If anyone has read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!