The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original mashup of genres. A “what if” concept mixing elements of Quantum Leap and Groundhog Day written as an Agatha Christie mystery. The conception is compelling, the story more-than-intriguing, and the fast-paced read irresistible. Congrats, Stuart Turton, on one incredible debut.
Set in the early 20th century, Aiden Bishop is a man with a mission: prevent the murder of socialite daughter Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight chances to solve the mystery and stop the crime. These chances come as he leaps into different host bodies at the start of everyday, which happens to be the same day, looping over and over again. He deals with the confusion of awakening in different places and in separate situations while also attempting to retrace his steps as he is seeming setback to the go square any time he makes headway. Bishop learns to be resourceful and quickly comes up with plans of communicating between his various hosts as each day, and each host, provides a new clue, and a different viewpoint, on the events ahead.
Turton’s writing style is fresh and illustrative. He retains the cadence of a Hercule Poirot plot, of an old time dinner murder mystery, but brings in new world twists and ideas. Setting the story as a first-person narrative, the reader comes to understand Aiden Bishop, feels the anguish and uncertainty the character faces, and most importantly, learn to like the bloke. More than a man out his element, Bishop is man out of his time in a way. He questions his moves and his decisions. The same old day becomes unique with feelings of hope and promise trickled out amongst the dread and anger. His thought process allows the reader to absorb the mystery but not stray too far ahead. Turton could have easily gone all-out gonzo, striking forth as a disrupter of past genre reads. Instead, he crafts his tale as a careful homage, feeding off the literary past, and blossoming into a unique creation, one that is bright and inviting.
One might look for a scorecard to keep up with the characters, their references, a time stamp for activities. A word of advice? Simply pay attention to the story. Turton cleverly provides clues and details along the way allowing you, dear reader, to play the role of the ninth host.
Many thanks to NetGalley for the advance, and completely enjoyable, read.