I’ve always loved murder stories like Agatha Christie’s ones. Those stories with a small cast of characters where one or more get killed by another one of them (or more). The continuous shift as new evidence is found, the conjectures in the mind of the investigators have always fascinated me so much that I have always been too involved in them to figure out who the killer was.
This is why, when a friend of mine told me she had just read The Seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and what the book was about, I immediately checked it out and bought it. The premise was too intriguing to just let it go.
A man wakes up in a forest and doesn’t remember who he is or what is he doing there. The only clue he has is a name, Anna, which he speaks as soon as he opens his eyes. After hearing a gunshot, he is sent to Blackheath mansion, the Hardcastle’s family mansion.
There is going to be a party at the mansion, and the protagonist lives his day as doctor Sebastian Bell, convinced to be just suffering from amnesia and that after a good night sleep he’ll going to feel much better. But, on the following day, he wakes up in another body.
A figure in a plague doctor’s costume explains to him that someone is going to kill Evelyn Hardcastle on that night and that he has to find out who is the killer. That same day will repeat itself eight times, and the protagonist will wake up in eight different bodies. If he won’t find the solution at the end of the eighth day, his memories will be taken away and the loop will begin once more. To make things even harder, two other people are participating in the “game” at the same time, and only one of them can win it and abandon the loop for good. And there is a crazy footman who, for some reason, is trying to kill the investigators.
Each and every one of the bodies he snatches is a real person, and in some way, it mixes its own personality with the protagonist’s one to help him unravel the mystery. The book does a great job of showing how these personalities blend with the protagonist’s and, at times, almost overthrow it. Time hops are a bit confusing at the beginning, but the story pace picks up soon and from there it all flows organically.
I loved the way Turton took a classic trope of murder mysteries and subverted it: instead of the classic detective solving the case in a few days of clues and observation of suspects, this time the “detective” re-lives the same day over and investigates from different perspectives.
So yeah: Groundhog Day meets Agatha Christie, but I think that reducing it to the two major tropes used by Turton doesn’t make the book justice. Also because when it comes to books and stories in general, sums aren’t always exact: this book results in a rich and complex story about punishment and forgiveness. If you already read the book or don’t care about spoilers, highlight the rows below to get some more comments about the final (It’s a trick I learned from another book review blog and I loved it). It really made me think about someone wanting revenge so badly they invest their entire life to get it, only to forget about why did they want revenge in the first place.
The end of the book goes a bit behind the solution of the murder itself and was a bit overcomplicated for my taste, but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment the previous chapters had built.
I have introduced this book like the one I’d like to have written myself, and this comes from my love for murder mysteries and for mind-blowing paradoxes. Still, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s hard to write such a story, even harder than classic murder mysteries. Teasing clues and motivations without giving too much (or too little) away is difficult, and it gets even more so if we take into account that every day the investigator’s personality changes a lot.
This is why I’m grateful someone dared to put it on paper and publish it so that I could enjoy it from a reader’s perspective.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Please let me know in the comments.