“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes.”
Is it possible to miss a book once you’ve finished it?
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is quite a book – both in content and size. [The edition I received is called The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but to quote the author Stuart Turton (from Goodreads): “‘Seven Deaths’ and ‘7 1/2 Deaths‘ are exactly the same. We had a clash in the US and had to change the title there, hence 7 1/2. Don’t worry, you’re getting exactly the same amount of murder for your money, though.”] As I was/am going through a whole phase, I’m a tad intimidated by books that are on the heavier side. Obviously one of the advantages of reading it on a Kindle is you don’t quite know what you’re signing up for. In the case of Seven Deaths, I was hooked right from the opening line, “I forget everything between footsteps.”
The book starts with a man waking up in a forest, with no memory of anything except for a name: Anna. He hears a scuffle and is convinced Anna has been murdered and a man whom he assumes to be the murderer hands him a compass. Using the compass, he finds his way out of the forest and reaches Blackheath, where preparations for a ball are underway. Servants and maids are running around, cleaning, arranging, decorating… He runs into a few of the guests, including a doctor, and they tell him his name is Sebastian Bell. He tries to reconcile his thoughts with the man he now knows he is. In the meantime, he meets Evelyn, the daughter of the Hardcastles of Blackheath, who spends most of her time in Paris and has returned for this ball. It is revealed that the ball is being held on the anniversary of the death of Evelyn’s youngest brother and the same guests who were present that day have been invited for this event. All of this is a lot for Sebastian to process. However, that’s the least of his troubles, for when he wakes up the next morning…
… he isn’t Sebastian Bell at all.
He is doomed to repeat the same day multiple times, each time waking up as a different person, a witness to the event that the title of the book alludes to.
When I realized what was going on, my mind immediately went to David Levithan’s Every Day. Unlike that one, Seven Deaths has body hopping as well as time travel. I’m not a fan of time travel usually – it leads to too many questions and there are always continuity problems that just cannot be explained. I kept all those doubts aside and just delved into the story.
What’s really impressive about this book is, even though it has so many named characters, at no point do you feel it’s an overload of information – each character has a distinct voice and a well-defined role to play. I quite liked the characters of Ravencourt, Dance and Rashton. The three serve as hosts on three different days and have the sharpest minds in the story. Dance’s sadness added an emotional side to this mystery.
In most books, around the 80-85% mark, the climax is done with and you’re just waiting for it to be tied up with a bow. No tying up here – for even at 90% you’re on a rollercoaster ride realizing all the information you’ve received so far is only half the mystery. The book keeps you on the edge until the last page – gripping and completely unputdownable, especially so in the last few chapters. It’s incredible, completely unreal!
The early reviews of this book have called it Nolan-esque and Agatha Christie-ly atmospheric. Both of these comparisons are apt. Add in a bit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the mix for the brilliance that are the last few chapters.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle from NetGalley/Sourcebooks Landmark