Friday, 18 January 2019

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Published in the US as "The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle"

Publication date: October 1st 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 528

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...

This book kept cropping up everywhere, but I never really took notice until I finally had a look at the blurb - and what a blurb! Decidedly curious, I finally picked up a copy only to find myself completely hooked and unable to put the book down again.

It's been a few days since I finished it and I'm still thinking about it, which is usually a pretty good sign of how I felt about the book. It's an incredible, intricately layered story, that feels like surely it can't work yet it really really does

I've tried explaining bits to my husband and watched his face go all screwy as he tries to make sense of it all, and honestly at times I did feel a little like that. There were parts I had to skip back over and re-read before moving on, just to make sure I had all the threads correctly before I started adding in the next bit of information.

Some of the twists were a little obvious, others sprang out at me and I had to refit all of my assumptions to cater to the new information, so it was a really great mix of being able to work some of it out and then still getting some surprises.

One of the best aspects was Aiden's body hopping from day to day. I know a few readers came unstuck over one of his hosts that he spends a good portion of the time fat shaming. I can completely understand why some people might find that upsetting and stop reading. However, I pushed through to see whether it did get better, and honestly I felt that whilst some elements maybe weren't handled as well as they could have bene, I think that overall the explanations for his initial responses really help. As Aiden hops from body to body he has very little sense of self and identity, he's a bit of a harsh critic, but he is equally harsh of a lot of his hosts. I could understand why someone who is being thrust from person to person at this rate, would struggle with sudden limitations that he isn't used to, and doesn't really have time to adjust to. I liked watching Aiden have to adapt to his differing circumstances, and I loved when he started to become less bogged down in the frustrations and limitations, and really started to work with what each host could offer to help him solve the problem.

It's a thorny, twisty, wonderful novel. I really struggled to tear myself away, and was genuinely quite freaked out at a few points reading at night. If you like dark and sometimes troubling novels, that have a complex and brilliantly plotted narrative then this is an absolute must read.

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