**This Review will be SPOILER FREE**
I was very kindly sent an eARC of this book by the publisher, via NetGalley, but all opinions, as always, are my own.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (or The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle if you’re in the UK) is a murder mystery science fiction book, set in the gothic estate of Blackheath, where a murder will occur later than night during a masquerade ball. Our protagonist is tasked with solving the murder, the twist being that the day keep repeating itself, and the protagonist wakes up in a different guests body each day.
As usual I want to start off discussing the negative points, and then we can finish with the positives.
First off this book does need the reader to really persevere because the beginning is very slow. The first couple of chapters, the Sebastian Bell chapters, are interesting because this is the first “host” for our MC, but the following two hosts bored me. That sounds very harsh but it’s true. I understand why they didn’t really do much, but the lack of action caught me off guard, especially after such an intriguing start. However, things really pick up once our MC starts some investigating, so if you are reading and haven’t reached the fourth host, keep reading, it gets better.
Evelyn Hardcastle is quite a long book, which, reading on my Kindle, I did not realise going in to it. The last couple of murder mysteries I’ve read have been super short, which might have made this feel a little longer in comparison. I’m not saying that this is a negative, since when I look at the plot in hindsight I’m not sure there is anything I would cut, or shorten, but it does feel like 528 pages.
When I fist started the book, up to about half way through I was so confused as to what time period we were in. For me this was quite frustrating, because every time I thought I had the period pinned down something would show up, like a car, and I would have to revaluate everything. However, when everything is explained at the end, even this little nitpick of mine tied into that. Maybe my advice would be, don’t worry too much about the time period, just go with it.
Finally, and this is my most substantial gripe, since I know the others have been rather nitpick-y. There is a relationship between our MC and a girl called Anna, the only thing you know in the first chapter, which does really have an effect on the plot. I love a romance subplot, however I did not buy this one in the slightest. For me there was never really a moment where I trusted her, or saw her as more than a disposable character, and therefore couldn’t get behind some of the decisions that out MC makes in relation to her. I can see how you may want to argue that these decisions were meant to show more about his character than hers, but overall it just didn’t feel as powerful as the other relationships in the book.
As you can see, my negatives are very flimsy, because this book was so greater and now I can tell you why.
The ingenuity of this plot was mind-blowing, from the plot premise to the twist and turns as the mystery unravels. With echoes of Black Mirror alongside Agatha Christie, this really was a breath of fresh air, especially in such an popular genre, and the creativity of Turton has to be applauded. But this is not to say that this book should be praised simply because it’s an interesting premise. As I said before the pacing was little off, especially when mysteries tend to have a very structured tight, pacing, but the writing style itself was very nice. It really feels as though every plot development, every sentence is crafted with a purpose, that makes me want to pick up his next book.
I also have to praise Turton’s expect characterisation, because out MC is a character, with their own motivations, fear, and goals. However there is a balancing act between the personality of our MC and the host. For instance if the host has certain skills, or a certain history, such as investigative skills, or they miss their wife, then the MC adopts those skills which in that body. The fact that the suitor managed to maintain this throughout eight different hosts, particularly towards the conclusion, is amazing, and I have to applaud him for that.
The mystery itself, if we are to judge it purely on the mystery aspect of the novel, was exceptionally well done. Turton kept me guessing the whole way through, until the very end, where I was desperate for the murder to be unmasked. The author could have very easily given us just a murder mystery, that’s how good it is, the sci-fi aspect is not something that detract form this plot, but to examine this aspect on it’s own, it become clear that the core mystery is a solid one.
Similarly if we look solely at the sci-fi aspect, that also kept me guessing, because it’s not until the very end that you truly realise the entirely of what this consists of. The mystery genre bleeds over into this one, which is also another aspect that the MC is trying to piece together. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no sci-fi expert, though I do enjoy the genre what I do read it, and I do wonder now, wether that had been the intention from the start. Ultimately whether it was, or was decided upon later, I thought it was a great twist, and really makes you think about the winner implications of Blackheath and the mysterious Plague Doctor.
Ultimately this is a very creative, and intriguing murder mystery, with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end.
If you’re a U.S reader, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is released on September 18 2018
If, like me, you’re from the U.K, The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is already available in hardcover, and ebook right now, and the paperback is set to be released October 4th 2018
Have you read this book, and if so what did you think? Are you going to read this book? If not, what is your favourite mystery novel? Let me know down below!
Thanks for reading,