‘Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once.
Until Aiden - one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party - can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy this book. I knew that Turton had drawn upon many familiar tropes of crime fiction - more so from the noir period in my opinion - and while I have enjoyed a few crime novels before, I was never really a fan of the traditional crime genre.
However, there was so much hype around The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and the name alone was intriguing. So, caught up in the pleasant atmosphere of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I gave in and bought a copy.
The one word I’d use to describe this book? Complex. The plot is full of shocking twists and reveals, it’s all just very mind-boggling. You will find yourself bewildered so many times throughout the story. However, I can’t help but admire Turton’s intelligence and his ability to craft such an epic storyline, along with the many side plots.
I’ll admit that it did take me a while to get into this novel, I had to persevere through the first three hosts before everything became clear. And so, from that point, I was hooked.
One of my favourite things about this novel is the descriptions that are inserted throughout. While Turton focuses more on the action than setting the scene, there are a few lines in there that are beautifully written: ‘A draught greets me at the top of the staircase, twisting and curling in the air, sneaking through the cracked windows and beneath the doors to stir leaves littering the floor.’ The way he describes the wind as if it is as cautious as the characters themselves contributes to the foreboding atmosphere of the book, and it’s as tense as hell.
The way in which the protagonist switches between each host is undoubtedly one of the most memorable aspects of the plot, As he gradually adapts to each host’s abilities, he has to battle the darker side of the characters before they take over completely. For example, one of his hosts is a rapist, and he finds he has to resist the urge to attack. Trying not to lose himself adds another layer to the novel, and it is certainly one of my favourite subplots. Turton manages to overlap the hosts’ thoughts with the protagonist’s so well it’s almost as if you are also caught up in the battle, and you know a novel is good when you become that sucked in.
The variety of hosts is also notable. As well as a rapist, he lives as an intelligent but obese man, a drug dealer and a butler who is lying on his deathbed, to name a few.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a long book, but it is far from repetitive. The ending is dramatic and unexpected, I was thinking about it for days, even when I started my next book. The difficult start appears to be a popular criticism, but it is certainly made up for with the exciting plot and characters. A must read.