“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?”
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is, quite simply, a masterpiece. I came upon this book by accident and went into it without much prior knowledge and it simply blew me away. I actually mistakenly picked this up thinking it was my work’s book club pick of ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ and, honestly, the duality of those names adds to the creepy mindbending magic of Turton’s novel, not that it was obviously intended. From the very beginning it felt like I was being swept into the book with its own power, even by picking up by accident, and I never truly felt like I was anything other than under its spell. Far from the lighthearted fuzzy feel good I have been led to believe Evelyn Hugo is, this novel is all about dark twist plots, betrayal, deception, and the problematic blurring of redemption and vengence.
At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem. ~ Good Reads
This synopsis, I believe, doesn’t do the intrigue and confusing magic of this novel justice. Our journey into this novel begins with a man who has no recollection of where he is, why he is outside in the woods with knife marks up his arms, or even who he is. Instead, the only thing he knows is the name on his lips: Anna. As he tries to convince his fellow party guests, all of whom seem to know who he is despite his complete ignorance to who they are, of the girl whose life he believes to be in danger, our main character experiences a day filled with trauma and distress, only to eventually pass out from exhaustion. This is to be expected, except when he wakes up, it is the same day again, and he is experiencing the day as a completely different person to who he was yesterday.
“Who must I have been to assemble so many enemies?”
Needless to say, this read is completely thrilling. Intriguing doesn’t seem a strong enough word for how I felt reading this book, often feeling so immersed that saying I shared in the characters’ distress is not simply a throwaway cliche comment but a reality. For me, the main spectacle of this novel is how effectively Turton creates a main character who inherently changes every couple of chapters, whilst simultaneously staying the same person. Wrap your head around that one! Each ‘host’ as our narrator calls them is completely different but yet that narrator, the person inhabiting their bodies, stays the same. What you are left with is this fascinating struggle between the hosts’ instincts and personalities and our narrator’s determination to maintain control. What was interesting was that everytime our narrator inhabits each of the characters’ bodies, their bodies seem to ‘know’ things the mind would not, leaving our narrator at the mercy of each of his hosts, from their personality and their emotions towards others, and the painful memories they tended to invite to the surface. There was a real sense that he was losing himself to these hosts which added to the desperation our main character feels and the determination to uncover the true killer of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Turton’s writing style is heavily steeped in suspense and dramatic aciton and this is another massive selling point for the novel. I often found myself having to reread sections, almost saying to myself ‘hang on a minute …’, as you are left to see if your hunches add up, or because the action is so sudden you are left is disbelief and, if you’re like me, with your jaw thoroughly dropped. The narrative passages are also simply gorgeous and often highly metaphorical in order to truly paint a picture of the world and chaos in which Blackheath embodies.
This novel is unlike anything I have read before and the experience devouring it was truly unique. Clearly it is a mystery, yet that word seems so inadaquate as it was so much more than that. I was absolutely hooked onto every page and the uncertainity continues to the very last page and beyond. I loved that I was left completely at the mercy of the writing, truly feeling like a passager in the narrative. At no point could I guess what would happen, leaving me completely immersed and absolutely obsessed. I can already tell this will be a firm favourite of the year, if not beyond.