Books Magazine

Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

By Curlygeek04 @curlygeek04

This is a book that’s gotten a ton of praise, and has been described as Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day.  As a murder mystery, it’s great fun, playing on the great murder mystery tropes: a group of wealthy, bored socialites in a dark and dusty mansion somewhere in the middle of nowhere (a little like Clue).  But this book has a twist.  Our narrator is being forced to relive the same day, eight times, in the bodies of eight different people. He knows the murder will happen but has to find out who does it, or he won’t get his own body back. He doesn’t know who he is or why he’s there, or whether he can change the course of events and save Evelyn Hardcastle. But he’s determined to try.

The thing about this book is, like the narrator, just when you start to feel like you’re getting it, you find you’ve got it all wrong.

While many readers have said they couldn’t put the book down, it felt long to me.  I did enjoy the body-switching, and having the narrator adjust to a new personality each day.  The interesting thing about the “host body” premise is that our narrator has some of the knowledge and most of the personality traits of each host.  He has to come to terms with the physical and mental flaws of each body.  I found several of the characters he inhabits quite interesting.

But I didn’t love this book as much as many of my esteemed fellow bloggers.  That’s mainly because really twisty-turny time travel stories tend to lose me at some point.  I find that some time travel can be a fascinating plot device – but I like a story to be fairly linear, and when time starts looping back on itself too much I start to tune out.

All the jumping around into different bodies at different times made it rather hard to get a feel for the characters and the chronology.  There were things that didn’t make much sense to me, and in my mind I was constantly trying to figure out how it all worked.  I had mixed feelings about the conclusion, which also went on a bit too long for me.

If you like puzzling your way through mysteries with lots of twists and turns and small details, you’ll enjoy this book.  Certainly, Turton has created an incredibly original story with a rich classic-mystery atmosphere.  And if you like books involving time loops, this is one of the most complicated time loop stories I’ve read (though in fairness I haven’t read a lot of them).

So, not one of my favorites this year, but certainly a memorable book.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher Sourcebooks Landmark.  This book publishes in the U.S. on September 18, 2018 (in the U.K. it’s titled The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle).

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