The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Hardcover)

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The following review is from the Guardian and written by Carrie O'Grady:


The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton review – Quantum Leap meets Agatha Christie

With time loops, body swaps and a psychopathic footman, this is a dazzling take on the murder mystery

Some books are a gift to the marketing department. The folks at Raven, a newish crime imprint at Bloomsbury, have described this one as “Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie”. It’s a good tagline, but they might just as well have chosen “An Instance of the Fingerpost meets Battle Royale via Punchdrunk theatre”, or “Quantum Leap crossed with The Bone Clocks and Zork”, or “Cluedo meets Groundhog Day by way of The GCHQ Puzzle Book (with a twist!)”.

So yes, it is derivative, but that’s not meant as a criticism. Stuart Turton, a debut novelist, has drawn on half a dozen familiar tropes from popular culture and reworked them into something altogether fresh and memorable. His murder mystery takes place in the classic setting of the 1920s country house, but right from the start, you know you’re far from Hercule Poirot territory.

The narrator wakes up in a dripping forest, wearing someone else’s dinner jacket and, he soon realises, someone else’s body. He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be trapped inside this stranger. Twigs crack behind him. A heavy object is dropped into his pocket and a voice rasps in his ear: “East.” Once alone, he pulls out the object; it’s a silver compass.

Eventually our man learns that his name is Aiden Bishop, and he is here for a reason. A masked figure informs him tersely that today, a murder will be committed – a murder that won’t seem like a murder. Bishop has eight chances to solve it. He will relive the same day eight times, but each morning he’ll wake up in a different body, or “host”. He’ll remember his experiences in the previous hosts, but if he doesn’t give the masked figure the name of the killer by day eight, he’ll be returned to day one, memory wiped, and have to start all over again. As indeed he already has done, hundreds, perhaps thousands of times.

In due course, Bishop is told he has rivals: two of the other members of the country house party are also hosts to foreign souls, tasked with unveiling the murderer. Only one of the three can succeed and thereby be freed from the time loop. And, just to keep him on his toes, he is being sought by a psychopath, a knife-wielding footman who targets each of the hosts in turn. Looks like a busy day for Mr Bishop.

This summary can hardly do justice to the mind-boggling complexity of the plot. There is a twist on nearly every page, and there are more than 500 pages. It’s a rare reader who won’t be hopelessly flummoxed well before the halfway point. And what a pleasure it is to give oneself up to the book, to be met with discoveries and thrilling upsets at every turn in the labyrinth. Not only is nothing what it seems, it’s not even what it seems after it’s been revealed to be not what it seems. “Fate’s leading me around by the nose,” says Bishop ruefully, and we can only sympathise.
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There is more to chew on here than just the mechanics of a time-travel detective story. Bishop, to his dismay, finds that his hosts’ personalities threaten to overrule his own at times, and some of them are nasty pieces of work, making him do things he would never normally countenance. “Every man is in a cage of his own making,” a character sagely remarks, and haven’t we all felt at times like impostors in our own bodies? There’s a moral aspect to Bishop’s dilemma, too. He likes Evelyn, and feels bound to prevent her murder – but how can he unmask her killer, and thus gain his freedom, unless the killing takes place?

Here, Turton touches on a problem central to his genre: you can’t have a murder mystery without a murder, which is by nature a brutal act that doesn’t always fit within the confines of a traditional detective story. He ingeniously uses his time-loop idea to get around it. Several times he likens his characters to “shadows cast upon the wall” – and indeed, since each morning brings the victims back to life, the act of murder here comes to seem no more dreadful than flicking off a light switch.

The price Turton pays for this is a loss of emotional engagement on the reader’s part. But as an intellectual thriller, the book can’t be faulted, and in the end, it’s the story that triumphs, with a series of last-minute revelations as dazzling as the finale of a fireworks show. I’m not sure it entirely makes sense, when all’s said and done – but who cares? If you want to work it all out, you’ll need to buy an entire sticky-note factory. Much more fun to just go along for the ride.

— Devin

This is a murder mystery for the ages! Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day, with a salute to Quantum Leap. The characters are incredible, with so much depth that you’ll swear they are real people. Be sure to give this book your absolute focus, as it deserves!

The rules of Blackheath are simple. Solve the case of who killed, or will kill, Evelyn Hardcastle and provide proof by 11p.m. A murder mystery that would leave Agatha Christie scratching her head.

Aiden Bishop, a man with an unknown past and mysterious intentions, even to himself, has eight chances, eight days, to solve the case. He relives the same day over and over, each day through the eyes of someone vital to the investigation. It is a race against the clock as he views the same day through the eyes of a doctor with memory loss, a friend of the Hardcastle family since childhood, and six other guests/staff of the residence. He establishes alliances with people he may not be able to trust, and encounters enemies that may not be as they seem, not to mention conversations with different incarnations of himself.

After spending three years of writing on sticky notes and connecting them with string, creating what he called a “highly suspicious murder wall”, Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last chapter, and perhaps even after that! It is a captivating, complex debut that I won’t soon forget.

— From Devin

October 2018 Indie Next List

“I hadn't known how badly I needed to escape my own life and sink into someone else's. Or in this case-- many lives. The multiple perspectives gives this book a mind-blowing mash-up feeling of Clue and the best Agatha Christie. There's a certain delicious joy to being confused and then ignoring the rest of the world while you read, desperate to discover the answers. Sure it's the basic premise of a mystery, but for some readers it's a forgotten joy in need of reviving. Fun, inventive and thoroughly entertaining, perhaps leave your own reality reading is the new binge watching.”
— Beth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List

“Evelyn Hardcastle will die tonight, at her own party, unless Aiden can figure out who the murderer is before it happens. How? He will spend a day inside the bodies of different guests at the estate, repeating the day over and over until he can solve the case. As he cycles through his ‘hosts,’ Aiden begins to recover memories of who he is, why he is trapped in this bizarre loop, and how to escape once and for all. A meld of golden-age mystery, surreal futurism, and period drama, this book is fresh, strange, and maddeningly (yet satisfyingly) complex.”
— Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN


"Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day...quite unlike anything I've ever read, and altogether triumphant."--A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

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.

For fans of Claire North and Kate Atkinson, The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive novel that follows one man's race against time to find a killer-- but an astonishing time-turning twist means that nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Praise for The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle:
Costa First Novel Award 2018 Winner
One of Stylist Magazine's 20 Must-Read Books of 2018
One of Harper's Bazaar's 10 Must-Read Books of 2018
One of Guardian's Best Books of 2018

Product Details
ISBN: 9781492657965
ISBN-10: 1492657964
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
Pages: 448
Language: English
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