Book Review : The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle By Stuart Turton
The Rules of Blackheath:
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…
The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
Anna. That was the first word that he shouted into the forest.
As soon as he finished calling Anna’s name, he quickly shut his mouth in surprise. He had no idea who Anna was, nor the reason behind why her name was the first and only thing that was running through his mind.
With his heart thumping as if he had been running for hours, he slowly took in his surroundings. Green. As far as his eyes could see he was surrounded by leaves and trees. He tried to rack through his memories, but he was at a loss at how he got here in the first place. He reeked of sweat and his legs were shaking. Why was he here? Why couldn’t he remember how he got into this situation?
“I make a clumsy attempt at prayer, hoping to rekindle whatever faith I once possessed, but the entire endeavour feels like foolishness. My religion has abandoned me along with everything else.”
Feeling the first touch of panic, he tried to recall something about himself : a family member, his address, age, anything. But nothing came. He didn’t even know what his name was. As crazy as it sounded, it felt as if every memory he had until a few seconds ago was wiped clean from his mind. Leaving him with only one name : Anna.
At a loss, he returned to the last concern of the man that he was.
“Anna!” he screamed again. Whoever this woman was, she was clearly the reason why he was out here. But he couldn’t, for the love of anything that is pure and holy, picture her. She could have been his wife, or his daughter, perhaps? He couldn’t remember, but could only sense that there was a pull in the name.
“Help me!” a woman screamed back.
He snapped to attention, seeking the source of the voice. Out of the corner of his eyes, he caught a glimpse of her between the distant trees. A woman in a black dress, running for her life. Without any second though, he immediately chase after her. With sweat pouring off his brow, legs shaking, he called out Anna’s name again. Only to be met with silence.
“Hope has deserted me. I’m a man in purgatory, blind to the sins that chased me here.”
He spun around, dizzying himself as he tried to figure out which path Anna had taken when he heard her shrill, terrified scream. It flooded the forest, sharp with fear, and was silenced by a gunshot.
He was desperate now, as he repeatedly yelled Anna’s name into the pouring rain. There was no response. The only reply coming from the fading echo of the pistol’s report.
“Like a child I close my eyes in the hopes that when I open them again, the natural order will be overturned, the impossible made plausible by desire alone.”
30 seconds. That was how long he hesitated when he first spotted her, and that was how far away he was when she was murdered. 30 seconds of indecision, and now Anna’s dead.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book :
Intriguing, Complex, Convoluted
Honestly, I am quite perplexed as to how to review this book. On one hand, I really do commend the author for his originality. Because this plot isn’t something that you see often in a mystery thriller novel. Mr. Turton definitely have the minds to write a good mystery book, I will give him that. And I did enjoy this book for what it was, which is a well written, interesting mystery/thriller. But on the other hand, there are also a lot of aspects that I didn’t like. Such as how the story was executed, the characters, the jumping between timelines.
Despite that however, I still rate this book a conflicted 4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads. Don’t ask me why, because honestly, I’m still quite confused as to why I gave it such a high rating despite me feeling like I had to wade through mud to finish this book.
The plot to this book is literally like how it was written in the summary. Our main character, Aiden, gets 8 hosts. He will occupy the hosts from the moment they wake up, all the way to the moment they fall asleep. Once they fell asleep at night –– or if they dies –– then Aiden will go to his next host. He will occupy one host per day, giving him 8 days to complete his mission. Which was to solve a murder that doesn’t look like a murder, the death of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Simple enough right?
I mean, if his only job would be to jump between hosts for 8 days to solve a murder mystery, not only would it be too : (a) easy, but also (b) that would be too boring for us readers to read. We’re going to need some more spice to keep us engaged until the end of the book. Won’t you say so?
Which is why, Mr. Turton decided to add another character : The Footman. Do you know what his one and only job is? Find and kill all of Aiden’s hosts. He can do it quick, or he can do it torturously slow. All it matters it that he kill all 8 of Aiden’s hosts, and make sure that he fail on his assignment to solve Evelyn’s murder.
‘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.’
I stiffen, gripping the sheets. ‘If freeing me is within your power, why not just do it, damn you!’ I say. ‘Why play these games?’
‘Because eternity is dull,’ he says.
Things are getting more interesting now, aren’t they?
Now of course, what fun would it be with just a footman running around trying to kill you? I mean, that will obviously get predictable over time. And in a mystery novel, the word “predictable” is not in our dictionary. We don’t know her, never heard of her.
“Escape isn’t to be found at the end of this dirt road, it’s through me. So run if you must. Run until you can’t stand, and when you wake up in Blackheath again and again, do so in the knowledge that nothing here is arbitrary, nothing overlooked. You’ll stay here until I decide otherwise.”
Which is why, you also need to know that Aiden is not the only one who is tasked to solve this murder mystery. There are also others who are thrown into Blackheath with the same task as him, and since there can only be one person who can leave Blackheath, they are going all out on this assignment. Which means, those other people, they are not above lying, manipulation, or even murder –– if it comes down to that.
And Aiden, all by himself with no knowledge as to what is going on and how to solve a murder mystery, do you think he’d be able to win against them all?
One of the thing I dislike most be it when I was reading a book, or watching a movie or tv shows, are the jumping between timelines.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind them going back and forth between past and present for a bit to better explain the story, but when the whole book is basically just the characters jumping between past, present and future, it honestly annoys the hell out of me.
I should have read more reviews before going into this book to better prepare myself. But what can I say, when I see all the 4/5 stars reviews peppering this book, I couldn’t resist wanting to immediately jump into the book and devour it whole.
Since this book’s main character, Aiden, jumps between hosts and was chased around by a lunatic whose body gets hot with lust at the thought of chopping him into pieces, he was murdered quite a few times. Which resulted to him jumping between present, future and past hosts.
“The future isn’t a warning my friend, it’s a promise, and it won’t be broken by us.
That’s the nature of the trap we’re caught in.”
I can’t really complain much about it, since it did make sense (at least from what I remembered) for him to jump around timelines and hosts. But after a certain amount of time, I must admit that it honestly gets a little overwhelming trying to keep up with who is who, and what’s going on.
Despite our main character being only one person –– Aiden –– it is worth noting that his characters and the way he thinks and solves things differ based on the host that he occupies. So he could be acting like a timid little rabbit in host A, only to be a loud and aggressive character when he is in host B.
While the concept itself is interesting, I can’t help but think that the author uses that idea to speed things up about 70% into the story. Because for the good 60% of the book, nothing was really happening. All there was to the first 3/4 of the book was Aiden stumbling about trying to figure out whether the situation that he was stuck in was real, of it all of it was fake. And a little bit of investigating here and there. For the most part however, he was basically just existing and barely doing anything –– other than obsessing about finding Anna.
“Unlike your rivals, you came to Blackheath voluntarily.
Everything that’s happening today, you brought upon yourself.”
But then, as soon as he slides into a host that happens to be a police officer, things just suddenly speed up like crazy. That one host accomplished more in a few hours than what Aiden and all of his 5 previous hosts could not in 5 days. Which makes sense, obviously, since the host was a policeman and whatnot. However I still find it kind of odd that things were suddenly progressing so quickly.
But hey, that could just be me.
Truth to be told, I wasn’t impressed with how this book was written. Sure, the author can whip up killer mystery novel that have you scratching your head trying to figure out who the culprit was. But that doesn’t make him a good writer.
The way this book was written was way too complicated. There was just too many things going on all at once that it was honestly impossible for me to keep track of what is going on. There were so many characters and side characters in play that at one point, I gave up trying to remember everyone’s names. Honestly, at one point through the book, all I wanted was to be done with the book and to never see it again.
“We’re trading devils,’ says the shaggy lawyer eventually. ‘Perhaps,’ says Hardcastle, ‘but I’ve read my Dante, Philip. Not all hells are created equal.”
I just finished this book a few days ago, and if you ask me to name 5 characters and a little bit of what they did in the book, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I kid you not, I wouldn’t be able to do it. That was how information dense this book was. I’m pretty sure there were some plot holes in this book as well, since when I was reading in, some parts did seem kind of weird. But man, let me just say, at that point I was just so done with the book that I don’t even bother questioning the plot anymore.
So from this I guess we can learn that : you can get a high rating by beating your readers’ mind and soul down to point that they don’t even want to think for themselves anymore and just agree with whatever you say.
The Verdict :
Would I recommend this book? Honestly, it’s not really high up there on my recommendation list. I mean, sure, if you’re the kind that enjoys having your mind scrambled with so much information to the point that you can’t even think anymore, you might enjoy this book. So go ahead and grab yourself a copy because this might just be your favorite novel.
Or, if you are looking for a mystery/thriller book with interesting or unique plot, then this one might be the one for you too.
Other than that though, I really would be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone. Simply because midway through this book, it starts becoming a chore and stopped being enjoyable to read, simply from the sheer of information that the readers were force fed alone.
So if you are just a reader who simply enjoys a good mystery/thriller book that doesn’t eventually turn into a chore to read, I’d say skip this one and find a book whose plot is not so complex and convoluted.