Agatha Christie step aside, there’s a new crime writer in town. Stuart Turton has managed a nearly impossible feat; a brand new, never-seen-before twist on the British country house murder mystery.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has all the ingredients of a classic whodunnit. When a party at a remote mansion ends with the murder of a young woman, guest Aiden Bishop must search through a cast of snotty socialites, impoverished aristocrats and sinister staff to discover the killer.
What makes this novel entirely unique is its fantasy twist. Our hero is stuck in a loop, reliving the day of Evelyn Hardcastle’s death again and again. His only way out is to uncover the murderer.
This book is a glittering labyrinth of non-linear clues and conversations. After Evelyn’s death, Aiden restarts the day in the body of a different guest sometimes gaining multiple perspectives on key moments. As he flits between viewpoints we rediscover the old adage that everybody sees the world in their own way.
Twists and Turns
In his afterword, author Stuart Turton says he covered the walls with post-it notes when he worked on this dazzling plot. I’m surprised he didn’t spill over onto the ceiling and floor. Incredibly intricate, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle turns you around multiple times before spitting you back out.
The novel helpfully begins with a list of primary guests and a plan of the house’s layout. I admit to flicking back a time to two, to distinguish between military officers and socialites, gamblers and solicitors. This didn’t impact in any way on my enjoyment of the story. If anything, it’s the many different personalities and agendas that makes this into such a thriller.
At this point in a review, I’d normally describe the main character but Aiden Bishop is deliberately ambiguous. As he’s catapulted through the bodies of multiple guests Aiden draws on his hosts’ strengths and struggles against their unpleasant impulses, such as cowardliness, recklessness or criminal tendencies. His desperation to stop the murder and ability to control one or two less savoury personalities makes him a likeable, decent character. Ultimately, he’s trying to save himself in addition to the much-murdered victim.
Verdict: Nothing is quite as it seems in this brilliantly absorbing novel. Allies and enemies are constantly shifting, and every page seems to bring a new revelation. It’s a complex and clever plot that will demand your full attention. Don’t be surprised if you’re still turning the pages at 2am.
Oh, and also, if anyone reading this review knows Stuart Turton, please pass on a request. The novel includes a brief mention of murder on a cruise ship. Ask him to think about turning this into a book!