The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle review: A fresh and fascinating mysteryOn February 11, 2018 by Margot
I feel I could only do it justice in a two-hour presentation using flow charts.
Nevertheless, here goes. The book is a mystery set in a country house, not long after the First World War, where a beautiful heiress is murdered during a party.
A standard Golden-Age whodunnit then? Nothing here to alarm the most unadventurous detective, you might think. What is weird is the detective.
The novel opens on the morning of the murder with our narrator running through the grounds of Blackheath House with a head injury and no idea of his own identity.
He is soon informed that he is Dr Sebastian Bell, one of the guests at Lord and Lady Hardcastle’s house party.
But an encounter with a sinister masked figure reveals that his real name is Aiden Bishop and he is in a sort of purgatory.
He is going to live through this same day eight times, waking every day in the body of a different guest or member of the household.
The only way to break the cycle is to solve the mystery of who will murder Evelyn Hardcastle.
We then follow Aiden’s progress through his eight “hosts” as he accumulates information to help him solve the murder.
Turton’s central ideas are perhaps not entirely original, recalling Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap, but it hardly matters when he deploys them with such energy and infectious delight.
Although the author pulls the rug out from under the reader dozens of times, he always provides a crash mat.
Vital information is clearly conveyed and it all hangs together brilliantly.
I doubt even Operation Overlord was as meticulously planned as this book.
It deserves to be a stonkingly popular hit but perhaps it misses being a masterpiece by a whisker.
Some characters are like cardboard cutouts and the dialogue is often stiff and unconvincing, creating a sense that Aiden has landed in a Golden Age pastiche.
However, the book is outstandingly enjoyable and addictive and, by the end, you may realise that you’ve been so preoccupied with Turton pulling your brain in all directions that you haven’t noticed that he’s got your heart in an iron grip as well.