I finished this book having realised fairly early on that I had approached what I was about to read from totally the wrong angle. This is one fiendish puzzle with complexities that are beyond devilish.
The premise of the book is seemingly one of a Golden Age mystery where our chief protagonist has to solve the puzzle of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight days to do so. So far so simple the clock is ticking and the clues are presented and you put them together and try to get there before he does. Oh, you are sadly mistaken if you think that is all there is to it!
The problem is far more complex in that our man inhabits different characters for each of these eight days and the same day keeps repeating. So he starts of as a doctor and he sees some stuff going on from that character’s perspective but when he wakes up again he is someone totally different and finds some new clues but also sees different aspects to the stuff he learnt the day before. All the while he is trying to keep hold of his true self whilst inhabiting what are mostly a disagreeable bunch of people.
Thrown into the mix is a nineteen year old mystery, linked to the return of Evelyn Hardcastle from her stay in Paris. There are also plenty of other dastardly goings on from blackmail to murder all to be kept on top of. Allies are formed but whether they are wise ones or not remain to be seen.
So it’s complex and ideally, to have any hope of keeping track of what’s going on, I would have needed an entire wall of notes to keep track of various characters and their actions because sometimes the chief protagonist jumps back in time. This means that character is for example unhappily at midday on day four or rather in his fourth host, anticipating where they need to go next to find a missing piece of the puzzle and then it’s back to the second host to pick up where he last left off. To be fair the author gives the reader pointers and reminders but it is a book to throw yourself into and hope that you can keep manage to hold enough information in your head to keep pace.
Now I’ve reached the end I’d ideally go back and savour just how clever the whole book is, but if I’m honest my brain hurts from the effort. Which has left me with a problem on how to rate the book. I really admired both the premise and the execution (of the book not Evelyn Hardcastle) and I did nearly work out one strand of the mystery proving that I wasn’t completely confused by it all, but I’m not used to a book being such hard work. Ideally this would have been better as a holiday read, it’s not a book to escape a hard day’s work with, it is a fiendish puzzle that won’t let you go! If all that isn’t enough this tale told in the first person present tense, which is entirely fitting, also poses philosophical questions which soon become apparent. Now I have the answer to the mystery I can ponder those at my leisure.
I take my hat off to Stuart Turton for the most original read I have read for a long time.
I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing plc for the chance to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle prior to publication on 8 February 2018. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.