Published: 8th February 2018
Started reading: April 4
Finished reading: April 10
Trigger warnings: Child death, drug references
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.
But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath, where nothing and no one are quite what they seem…
I think it is fair to say that I had never read anything quite like this before. From the sheer uniqueness of the concept to the near faultless execution of an exceptionally complex, labyrinthine plot, this was a truly extraordinary book. As far as standalone novels are concerned, I have not read many better.
An astonishing amount of ideas went into creating this story, and they are all delicately woven together to make a captivating paranormal mystery. There are numerous characters, multiple plot strands, and an intricate, shifting timeline where even the finest details carry great importance towards uncovering who really does kill Evelyn Hardcastle.
The events that take place at the beginning of the book raise a lot of questions, which soon multiply as the plot is established and begins to take shape. At first, the narrator is Sebastian Bell, but it eventually emerges that he is merely one of eight different men occupied by Aiden Bishop, who has been tasked with solving Evelyn’s murder.
Over the course of the eight-day timeline, Aiden inhabits the bodies of all of these men, using their various abilities and ways of thinking to help secure his freedom, all while being pursued by the merciless footman. Aiden is the narrator throughout the book, but aspects of his character change depending on his host. I told you it was complex!
I was really impressed at how Aiden and each of his hosts were all very different, clearly defined characters. While the book is told exclusively in first-person from Aiden’s perspective, all of his hosts have distinct purposes and personality traits that give them a real depth and unique identity, making them all the more fun to read.
There are indeed a lot of characters in this book, and I must admit it took a bit of time to get used to them all and how they fitted into the story. However, most of them are memorable, and typically for a perfect mystery, carry uncomfortable or unexpected secrets that contain huge significance.
I also love it when a book contains a setting that almost feels like a character in itself. The Blackheath estate is evocative and vividly described in all of its gothic and somewhat dilapidated glory. It is done in a way that helps to create a sense of atmosphere and build suspense, especially when the stakes are so high. Meanwhile the map at the start of the book was really useful too, enabling me to form a clearer picture of where certain events took place.
The plot was full of interesting twists and turns and revelations. Because of the timelines, there were incidents that take place in the book that only come to make more sense later on. It may seem confusing to some, but the whole thing is unbelievably clever.
The biggest twist is fittingly saved for the end, and I must confess that I did not see it coming in the way it did! Throughout the book my mind was ticking over, casting suspicion on many of the characters, and although looking back there are several subtle hints pointing towards the truth, it was equally very well concealed, so the ending mostly came as a genuine surprise. And guess what, it was thrilling and I loved it!
Beneath all of these standout elements lie the themes that really underpin this novel. As he seeks to solve the mystery, Aiden not only has to battle the instincts of his hosts, but also his own conscience, his own morals, and his entire self-identity. By the end, it feels in a way like a coming of age story for him.
I really liked the writing style. Along with capturing the nuances of every host and each individual character, it flowed gracefully and was descriptive while always enhancing the plot. The pace was perhaps a little slow at times, but I found lots to admire in the similes, metaphors, and the frequent personification of objects and emotions.
Overall, there is almost nothing I can criticise about this book. It is exceedingly complex and presents a compelling mystery that becomes more and more intricate as it gradually unfurls. It is without question my favourite book I have read in 2019 so far, and one that I shall recommend to anyone who likes a good mystery, paranormal or otherwise!
Massively inspired by the many Agatha Christie mysteries that he read as a child, Stuart Turton long held an ambition to write his own. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel, and I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into writing and perfecting it.
Turton is a freelance journalist, having also worked as a bookseller, a magazine writer, and an English teacher. He now lives in London with his wife and daughter.
This book was absolutely brilliant, and there were a number of aspects that just left me in awe of how the whole thing was woven together. The painstakingly complex plot may not be for everyone, but for me it was simply a masterpiece.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐