NetGalley #09: “The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

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This was a review copy provided to me by Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest and fair review.

It is always a delight to chance upon a story in which you can loose yourself and, while lost within its pages, time simply drifts away from you.

This novel, the debut from Stuart Turton, is just such a read.

I have, on several recent occasions, been asked for suggestions of new books that provide great entertainment and are satisfying reads and this title has loomed large in my recomendations. The thing is, I find myself a little perturbed as to how best to describe it, such is the novel’s fresh, and possibly unique, style.

Taking place midway between the two world wars and set on a large, decaying country estate – with the requisite lord and lady, their domestic staff and assorted house guests, all gathered together for a party – this could initially be thought of as a tale similar to the classic crime stories of Agatha Christie and co.

However, this is no “locked room” style of crime in which one person must solve the case. Instead, the reader finds themselves thrust into a dark, chaotic and cruel, locked world in which our hero awakes, wet and with no recollection of even his name, in a cold and forbidding forest. He knows only that he witnessed an attack on a young woman out in the woods.

He eventually discovers his name, Aiden Bishop, and a masked man tells him that Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered that day and that Bishop must solve it. Our hero has eight opportunities to find the murderer as, with each new dawn that arrives, Bishop must relive the same day again. He will retain his memories of the day but will take on each new hosts personalities and traits as he investigates. He cannot escape from the country house until he has solved the mystery. If Evelyn’s death remains unsolved by day eight then time is reset to the first day, his memory wiped and Bishop must begin it all again. As he has done previously over unknown years and decades.

As I said, more a locked world than a locked room mystery. With a fiendish dash of time travel and Groundhog Day frustration and puzzlement added to the delicious mix. Added to this is a pyschopath intent on killing anyone who tries to find the murderer.

I hope not to ruin anyone’s pleasure in reading this novel when I say that the ending was wonderfully twisted and surprising. Futhermore, it was magnificently enjoyable and thought provoking.

Turton has crafted a fine novel that – despite being troublesome to explain – is a joy to read. His prose is terrific and he has created a wonderful world – familiarly reassuring yet disturbingly creepy – in which Bishop and a host (pun intended) of finely drawn characters live and die.

I read this book during the early months of this year, when the nights were long and the days cold and grey and when the weather outside my window seemed to take its lead from the pages I held in my hands. And I loved the experience.

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