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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is not what you expect!

7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle book cover

The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery, Magical Realism

Popsugar Challenge #9: book with a map

Published 2018, 432 pages

Intriguing premise. Complex story line. Lots of characters. A gloomy, stormy, rainy day - over and over.

I only had a vague idea about this book when I got it as a library ebook. I dived right in. I came up gulping for air over and over as I tried to get my bearings. The book takes an Agatha Christie type scenario with a closed environment and limited suspects but then turns that premise on its ear. And, it's his FIRST book!

It has a great gothic setting and the appropriate gloomy weather to set the stage. It has an interesting protagonist, Aiden, living the same day over and over, ala Groundhog Day. Except his day isn't fun. In order to escape the repeat-day-loop, he has to solve the murder of Evelyn. He's given 8 days and 8 different host bodies to figure it out. Each time he wakes up he's in a different character's body and has that person's personality, skills, and experiences to draw on while trying to remember and hang onto his own "self". Sounds interesting, right?

"Wealth is poisonous to the soul, and my parents have been wealthy a very long time—as have most of the guests who will be at this party. Their manners are a mask; you’d do well to remember that.”
red leaf with raindrops photo by Terrie Purkey

Without giving more away, let me just say - I couldn't follow it. I tried. Not only could I not even come close to solving the mystery, I couldn't even keep all the players straight. The names were too similar, the characters popped up for a chapter, disappeared for several, then popped up again. In one life they do ABC, then the next time they do DBC. I honestly had no idea who was doing what to whom! I can't imagine plotting out this book!

"Bell’s repeating my day exactly, and yet he believes himself to be making his choices freely, as I did. Likely then I’m blindly following a course plotted by Daniel, which makes me what…an echo, a memory or just a piece of driftwood caught in the current?"

That quote kind of describes me - a piece of driftwood caught in the current....... For me, the middle of the book dragged along - primarily because I couldn't keep everyone straight. But I didn't want to give up because I wanted to know how/why the whole host body thing worked. The couple of twists at the end are definitely surprising and satisfying and almost make it worthwhile.

This is such an original book and very well constructed if you like mind bending stories. Be prepared to think and pay attention! There's a short interview with the author at the end of the book and his reply to "how did you keep the plot lines straight?" was along the lines of - a wall full of post-its, an excel spreadsheet and his editor. I can only imagine.

Fits the #Popsugar20 ReadingChallenge for a book with a map - there's a map of the grounds at the front to help orient you to the scene as well as a party invite listing the main characters. (party invite didn't help much with an ebook)

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