Publisher: Raven Books
Publication Date – 8 February 2018
A classic and complex murder mystery in an English manor combines with ingenious elements from fantastic genres to create one of the best new releases of 2018. Reading like the outrageous combination of Groundhog Day, Inception, Downton Abby and Sherlock Holmes written by Agatha Christie, The Seven Deaths of Eveyln Hardcastle is the triumph debut from outstanding new author Stuart Turton.
In a turn-of-the-century country manor, Blackheath, a group of distinguished family guests have gathered for the first time since a terrible incident many years ago. Before the end of the weekend’s masquerade, a terrible crime will be committed. A young woman will be killed, and no one will realise that her death was the result of murder.
Inserted into the middle of all this chaos is Aiden Charles, who awakens with no memory of who he really is. Aiden thinks at first that he is a cowardly doctor with amnesia until a man wearing a plague mask reveals that nothing is as it seems. Aiden is an outsider, inhabiting and controlling the body of the doctor through unknown means. The plague doctor reveals that Aiden has been trapped within the manor and is being forced to repeatedly relive the same day again and again, awakening each morning in a different host and living the entire day in their body.
There is only one way Aiden can earn his freedom: solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, the estranged daughter of the manor’s owners. If Aiden can solve the murder by the end of his eighth day, he will be able to leave. If he fails to solve the murder his memory will be erased and the cycle will start again.
Using the abilities and connections of his eight very different hosts, Aiden must navigate the halls of Blackheath and the various guests who have arrived for the party. However, Blackheath has a dark history of murder and betrayal that still casts a shadow to this day. Every one of its inhabitants has a secret, and many of the guests would willingly kill to protect theirs.
Aiden is also forced to overcome several unnatural problems associated with his circumstances. While the bodies he inhabits all hold the means to solving the crime, he is forced to balance the varied personalities of his hosts, each of which causes him to act or think in a very different way. The longer he remains trapped in Blackheath, the more powerful the personalities are.
It also soon becomes apparent that Aiden is not as alone as he thought. Two other people like him have also been trapped in Blackheath, but only one of them can solve the murder and earn their freedom. One of his competitors appears to be trying to help him, but Aiden may not be able to trust the mysterious Anna, even though her name is the only thing from his past life that he can remember. The third competitor has taken on the persona of a murderous footman and has no qualms about killing all of Aiden’s hosts to remove him from the competition. Can Aiden solve an unsolvable crime before all his hosts are killed, or will he be trapped forever within Blackheath?
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a fantastic read that features a unique and imaginative combination of genres. The basis of the story is a complicated murder mystery placed within the setting of a British manor house. However, there is a certain and mysterious fantastic element that makes the narrator relive the day over and over again within a new host. The murder mystery, the manor house setting and the time travelling body swapping, combine together perfectly into a tremendously addictive narrative.
At the heart of the story is an intense and compelling mystery that quickly becomes the main draw for the reader. Solving the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle requires the protagonist to discover and expose every single secret and lie within the manor. The sheer amount of details and enigmas that Turton has included with the book are so immense that it takes nearly eight different perspectives of the same sequence of events to get them all together. Even then, the reader will be amazed by every single twist and turn that it takes to get to the final reveals. The time travel and body switching elements of the plot cleverly tie in and enhance the book’s mystery elements. These elements allow the reader to see multiple versions of the same event, provide a wide variety of different perspectives on the clues, and pull together different testimonies from the same characters as they are questioned by the various hosts.
In addition to enhancing the murder mystery elements, the time travel and body switching aspects of the novel also help to increase the pacing and suspense throughout the book. The transition between the main character’s various hosts is not as linear as it first appears. Not only does the narrator switch to his next host once a day is over, he can also switch back to a previous host when he one of his hosts is knocked out, falls asleep or is killed. This allows the reader to flip through these hosts when a lot of action is occurring, especially when the narrator’s various hosts are targeted in quick succession. Additional suspense is also introduced due to many of the incidents within the story being out of sync with the narrator. Various events have been put into place by either future hosts of the narrator or by characters from different points of the book’s timeline. As a result, the reader has no idea why some events are happening, especially at the start of the book, and it is cool when the various causes of these events are revealed throughout the later parts of the book.
An appealing part of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is the eight unique hosts for the main character to possess. Each of these hosts has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is intriguing watching the main character try and work out what they are. They also have their own distinctive personalities that affect the main character in different and subtle ways. The hosts also have their own way of dealing with people or situations, and this affects how the main character reacts and goes about his investigation. It is intriguing to see how he changes from host to host. In addition, there is no certainty about who the main character’s future hosts are going to be. While there are hints, the reader doesn’t know until the narrator wakes up in the body, so the reader can’t help but examine the other characters with whom the narrator interacts in case they are a future host. There are also some interesting scenes in which the narrator attempts to find and interact with a future version of himself. Turton’s use of multiple hosts for his narrator is an important and distinctive part of this book that cleverly adds additional mystery to the narrative while also providing suspense and a changing array of personalities and challenges for the protagonist.
Representing a masterful combination of crime fiction and otherworldly attributes, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is pure enthrallment that is guaranteed to transfix all eyes to its pages. As one of the best releases of 2018, I cannot recommend this book enough.