Have you ever come across a book that is a page-turner from page 1? I had never, until now. That’s because The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle starts off right in the middle of a mystery. There is no setting up of pieces. No quiet beginnings. No parade of characters. No subtle hints towards their motivations. None of it. You are just thrust right in the middle of the perplexing situation. A word of advice from someone who has been through it - Keep water and snacks handy. You will have neither the will nor the sense to get up from your chair once you start reading this book. I realised it the hard way when I finished the book and got up with pangs of hunger from not having eaten anything for hours.
The premise is delectable and will appeal to anyone interested in a good mystery. (No Spoilers) There is a huge gathering at an estate owned by the Hardcastle family. All the people have been invited to a party. In the midst of all this, Evelyn Hardcastle is going to die. The protagonist is stuck and the only way out is to solve the supposed murder. He will get 8 chances to do this, reliving the same day in bodies of 8 different guests.
The beauty in uncovering the mystery is not just to satisfy the obvious curiosity. It is something much deeper. That’s because you get more and more invested in the characters. Not just the protagonist but also all the individuals that protagonist has a soft spot for, particularly Evelyn. So there is almost a personal stake in unearthing the individual responsible. You are bound to feel the helplessness and the time-bound nature of this predicament.
The narrative is crafted to perfection because there is never a dull moment. I was frantically moving through pages after pages trying to make sense of what is going on. There are breadcrumbs cleverly sprayed throughout the book to keep you hooked. So major clues are revealed at just the right time, not a moment too soon. Another reason for intrigue is how the story comes together over 8 days. Pieces of the story are scrambled across the 8 guests. As you read through them, one after the other, you are constantly putting together pieces you uncover, like a jigsaw puzzle. But you don’t have all the pieces, so you move through the mystery, waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to be revealed. All this ensures that The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle written by Stuart Turton has a manic pace that is unrelenting till the very end.
The only reason I got to hear about this book was because of my local bookstore. So I can never emphasise this enough - Support Local Bookstores. Buy it here. (use code: filmyfool to get an exclusive discount)
Spoilers below ...............................................................................
There is a reason why The Seven Death's of Evelyn Hardcastle feels unique even within the mystery genre. It is because it also has certain delicate flavours of sci-fi and fantasy genres. The whole ordeal of living the same day over and over again with different people creates a time loop. This is bread and butter stuff for time travel stories within the sci-fi genre (read: Recursion by Blake Crouch). In addition to this, the entire so-called rehabilitation setting from where you cannot leave (even if you take a car and drive through the night) is reminiscent of the fantasy genre. These things bring in the necessary twist in an already bewildering storyline that would make Agatha Christie proud.
Apart from the suspense and thrill, the book offers a bunch of delightful characters. None more so than the two oldies - Lord Cecil Ravencourt and Edward Dance. It is so fascinating because each character brings with him a new challenge, a new promise and his own set of peculiarities. As the protagonist goes through them, the emotion of each character is slowly communicated, not just to Aiden, but also to the reader. The pace is also seamlessly altered complimenting each character. Hence, you are initially frustrated with Ravencourt's limited mobility and highly impressed with Rashton's ability to find answers.
What really got me in a fix was the feeling of getting the 4th wall broken (not exactly). Bell is the first, chosen by the Plague Doctor, and hence his feelings for Evelyn start from there. As a reader, I also felt immensely warm towards Evelyn. However, when the Plague Doctor confronted Aiden with this information and made him realise that his feelings for Evelyn are only a result of starting the loop with Bell, I was speechless, just like Aiden. It is almost like there was a 4th wall being broken by the doctor, knowing full well what I was feeling, reading this book in the cosy corner of my living room. Spooky! But nothing compared to having a murderous footman lurking around the dark corners of your house.
Support Local Bookstores. Buy it here. (use code: filmyfool to get an exclusive discount)