The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: A Review
In the wake of novels-turned-movie-sensations such as Gone Girl, Me Before You, and Ready Player One, it has seemed as though every novel I’ve picked up since has been desperately attempting to imitate these success stories.
As a literature student I read widely across literary periods, but any contemporary I pick off my shelf tends to be somewhat predictable and follow a similar pattern to those above. However, there are exceptions, one of which has recently taken the US and UK by storm with its originality and absolute indelibility. This novel is Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, (or 7 ½ in the US edition).
The mystery thriller has received a 4.02 rating on Goodreads, was nominated for the Specsavers National Book Awards, and was the winner of both the Costa First Novel Award and the Books Are my Bag Novel Award 2018. However, despite the fact that Turton’s award-winning debut novel was published exactly a year ago, it seems to only be growing in popularity. A simple search on Twitter will reveal hundreds of avid readers obsessing over the book, and Turton himself has just released a podcast with Eurogamer explaining his influences, spoilers, and what happens after the final page. As Seven Deaths was the journalist’s debut novel, this continued popularity and media presence is, quite simply, incredible.
Turton explains in the acknowledgements of the novel that his inspiration for the mystery hit him at 2 am on a long-haul flight to Dubai, after a lifetime of reading and wishing to emulate Agatha Christie’s novels. His book does pay a certain homage to Christie’s famous murder mysteries, but it is also so much more than that. In 505 pages, Turton transforms a seemingly simple murder mystery into a body-hopping, time-travelling, constantly confusing yet ultimately satisfying dark thriller that is quite literally impossible to put down.
Without giving away any potential spoilers, as I would highly recommend you order and read it immediately, the characters within the novel are infinitely well developed- yet are never what they appear to be. The premise of the book is that Evelyn Hardcastle, the typical rebellious yet beautiful daughter of the wealthy Hardcastle family, is murdered every night during an exquisite party at 11 pm, and Aiden Bishop must figure out who killed her. However, this is not an easy feat, as he wakes up every morning in the body of a different guest. The reader is therefore consistently asked to suspend their belief, and trust that any apparent ‘plotholes’ will be ironed out by the end (which they most definitely are).
Set in a dilapidated family mansion, on grounds haunted by a previous murder, there is a definite gothic tone to the action, yet the literary masterpiece fails to fall into the predictability of such a genre. In fact, I would argue that the novel is not so much a ‘mystery thriller’ and is actually an amalgamation of several different genres, and is therefore extremely difficult to categorise. It is a genre of and in its own right.
Whilst the premise and blurb of the novel are extremely engaging and original, they still do not do the plot justice. There is no way to understand the complexities and genius of the novel without reading it (preferably twice), and I am yet to discover a wholly negative review. The sheer imagination that Turton demonstrates in his debut novel is enough to ensure that anything else he may write in the future will be an instant success.
For now though, if you are in the market for a new read this year, I highly recommend you give this novel a try.