Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. Each morning, he wakes up in the body of a new host, reliving the same day with a different perspective.
As Aiden delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, he realizes his task is more difficult than he first realized. He’s not the only one trying to escape Blackheath Estate.
This is not the kind of mystery you can read expecting to solve before it ends.
Title: The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Genre: Thriller, mystery
Page count: 438 pages
Release Date: September 2018
Overall grade: A
It starts off with the narrator being unable to remember anything, not even his own name. So from the beginning, you are learning with the narrator.
The reader doesn’t have any advantage over the narrator; there are no scenes following the killer or the victim or anything like that.
The entire book is technically narrated by the same character, but he has a different perspective depending on which character’s body he’s inhabiting. It’s like having the best of both single character and multiple character narration.
A single character narrating helps keep the confusion between chapters minimal, while having him inhabit different characters and having him figure out the best way to use his strengths keeps the narration interesting.
The concept of the book itself was very interesting. I’ve never read anything quite like it, with the combination of the body-swapping, time loop and a character who wants to escape but has no memory of what he’s escaping to.
The premise hooked me from the beginning, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. The book was just as dark, twisty, and intricate as the description indicated.
This book had a lot of twists, and they were all very well done. Despite the time jumps and character switches, the twists are easy to follow and make sense in the context of the plot.
There are enough twists that the ending iss impossible to guess, but not too many that any of them are unnecessary or purposely invented to shock the reader.
It’s always annoying when authors use too many poorly executed twists because it feels cheap, like they’re trying to cheat the reader. Turton, despite being a first-time author, didn’t try anything like that.
Another thing he did well was properly label each chapter, making it easy to figure out whose body Aiden is in and which day he is on. The timing isn’t straightforward since Aiden only switches bodies when his host loses consciousness.
This means if his first host takes a nap in the middle of the day, he’ll switch to Day Two with a different host. If that host goes the whole day without losing consciousness, he switches into host three.
For example, he goes back into the first host until that host lives through the day or loses consciousness again. It’s a concept that could be very confusing, but Turton labels all of the chapters with the days and then immediately makes it clear within the first sentence that Aiden is in a different body.
There is not a point where I was confused about the hosts or how much time was left. Also, if Aiden switched unexpectedly, the reason was always explained.
Another thing I liked about the book was how perfectly the setting fit with the story. Blackheath is a dark and secretive place, just like the inhabitants.
There’s a creepy forest, a lake, and a dilapidated manor, all of which Aiden explores throughout the course of his adventures.
The setting was well-described and fit the style and mood of the book extremely well. I would say the only thing it was lacking was a clear time period and a more detailed description of where Aiden came from.
The time part was probably the most confusing, since I kept trying to place when the story was happening based on clues like the technology, fashion, and dialogue the characters used. Every time I thought I figured it out, something else would come along that proved me wrong.
About halfway through the book, I gave up and tried to place the time, but I still would have liked to know when it took place just for reference. I’m not sure if the author picked a time period and just didn’t do a lot of in-depth research or if the time was left purposely ambiguous.
It wasn’t clear enough to be able to tell either way, so I would have liked some more details.
I also would have liked a better description of where Aiden came from, which I feel would have made the very end of the book feel slightly less abrupt. That may have slowed the plot down a bit, so perhaps it’s best that Turton didn’t include that.
This book is probably one of the most unique books I’ve read this semester. Definitely something I’d recommend for anyone looking for something twisty and impossible to put down.
Staff reporter Rana Schenke can be reached at email@example.com.
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