‘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.’ Aiden Bishop is caught in a kind of Groundhog day time loop doomed to relive the same day eight times in a different host each time until he can solve the death of Evelyn Hardcastle. But each host presents its own problems as he works against the clock and murderous rivals to discover the root of the mystery.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a difficult book to fit into any one genre. It’s crime, literary fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, all wrapped into one weird and wonderful package. One reviewer described it perfectly as ‘Agatha Christie meets Doctor Who’ and I don’t think I can sum it up more succinctly than that. All the gripping tension and old style crime of a Poirot with an amazing layer of fantasy sci fi which just adds that something extra to it that made me not want to put the book down.
Aiden (as we come to discover he is called) is a character you really feel compassion for. He is trying to not only escape Blackheath but he won’t do it at the expense of others and it’s painful to watch him struggle to keep himself intact with each new host and try to keep a grip on the situation he finds himself in. The other characters we come to know in the story did not elicit as much sympathy from me as they generally weren’t all as nice as him! That is not to say they weren’t well written as they most definitely were, to the point of feeling a particular revulsion with regards to one of the hosts!
The location of the story itself, Blackheath, could almost be another character. It’s melancholy, dark and decaying. It brings up the image of a nasty Downtown Abbey, something like a bad twin. Evil events have occurred here and you almost feel as if the house caused them to happen and is smirking about it.
The writing in the book is exceptional and turns what could be a confusing concept into a gripping murder mystery with unexpected twists round every page turn. This is a book that I know I’m going to find myself raving to people about and recommending at every opportunity.