This is one of the most brilliantly clever books I’ve read in ages. Imagine if you mixed the DNA of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None with the plot of Inception and then added the suspense and menace of the very best Doctor Who episodes…the result would be something close to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Don’t worry, this review is spoiler free.
Guests gather at the dilapidated mansion of Blackheath, home of the impoverished Hardcastles, to mark the homecoming of the family daughter Evelyn from Paris. It’s supposed to be a celebration – but none of the guests seem particularly happy, least of all Evelyn herself. Everything seems hollow and contrived, as though they were the cast of a gloomy play.
Aiden Bishop awakes in the body of another man with no memories and no notion of who or where he is. All he can recall is the name ‘Anna’. A mysterious figure in the guise of a plague doctor tells him that this party is fated to end in tragedy. At 11pm, when fireworks are let off over the house, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered and yet it won’t appear to be a murder. If Aiden can solve the case, he will be free. Until he does, he will live the same day eight times over, each time in the body of a different guest. If he doesn’t succeed in naming the murderer by the last day, he’ll be stripped of his memories once more and the process will start all over again.
But it’s not in any way a simple task. Every guest has their own dark secrets to hide and the cloud of another murder nineteen years earlier still hangs over the house. To make matters worse, Aiden has rivals fighting for the chance to escape Blackheath and he’s being tracked by a murderous figure known only as ‘the footman’ who wants to kill each of his hosts before he can make any headway in solving the case.
I honestly don’t have enough superlatives for just how bloody great this book is. It is so exciting, so full of twists and turns and fiercely, fiendishly clever and original. It’s the kind of book you just can’t bear to put down until you know what the conclusion is – a couple of times I had to stop myself from reading the last page, so keen was I to know the answers.
Everything about the story is pitch perfect; the cast of characters ranging from the earnest to the pitiful to the downright odious. The concept of looking at a gathering through eight different perspectives and approaches was great and allowed the mystery and motives to be explored really thoroughly. The sense of gothic-like suspense is excellent; heightened all the more by the mysterious appearances of the Plague Doctor and the malevolent threat of the footman always lurking just out of sight. Aiden’s sense of desperation is so well-constructed it was almost tangible.
Although the plot is wonderfully clever and complex, and involves a lot of crossing of time streams, it’s not overdone or difficult to follow. The reveal, when it comes, is astonishing and then Turton sweeps the rug out from under your feet and blows your mind a second time. Then, just when you think that there can’t possibly be any more surprises in store, you find out why Aiden and Anna are there in the first place. All I can say is *wow*.
I can’t really go into any more details without giving away plot points and I really don’t want to spoil the book for anyone – it’s far too exciting. If you love murder mysteries, brain teasers, clever plots or just want something totally unique and refreshing… go and read this book immediately!
It’s an emphatic 5/5 from me!