Bingo Square: Reading the TBR
In the crumbling country house of Blackheath during a party, Evelyn Hardcastle takes her own life. Except she didn’t. And it’s on Aiden Bishop to find out what really happened. Only instead of a straight forward murder mystery he’s stuck in a time loop, living the same day over again but in different host bodies, able to see events from different perspectives and question guests about their whereabouts. But there are others trapped in the same predicament and only one of them can escape Blackheath. Whoever takes the murderer’s name to the Plague Doctor by the end of the day can leave, and the others are prepared to kill to stop Aiden being the winner. Can he figure it out before time runs out?
The blurb and endorsements go all out to sell this one as the second coming of Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day but I was pretty bored to begin with. There is so much going on in this novel and yet it feels like very little happens at the same time. Part of the reason it’s so dull is because the protagonist is so dull. Partly because we have no idea who he is, as he changes every time he’s in a new body. Not only doesn’t Aiden remember his real self, but the bodies he’s in influence his behaviour, so he’s changeable. This should make him fascinating I suppose but it didn’t work out that way for me.
There’s also an awful lot going on, it’s confusing, there’s a load of characters…and it still isn’t a page turner. You have not one person trying to solve the murder but several working either for or against each other (who knows?); an evil footman trying to thwart them; a mysterious figure dressed as a plague doctor giving instructions; a murder almost twenty years ago that’s somehow relevant; a shady but helpful(?) valet; a man who has been randomly beaten up by another guest; a missing lady of the house; oh and Evelyn’s death, how could I forget that? (Because even though it’s the thing this all supposedly hinges on it’s often shoved to the side for other ‘twists’.) This is in the first 100 pages. It’s too much and also not enough at the same time, which is quite an achievement.
I was tempted to give up on this one but I stuck with it and it did get better, but I still can’t say I overly enjoyed it. I appreciate the sheet amount of plotting that went into it and keeping it straight must have been crazy making. I can only assume the author had his own murder wall tracking everything. The effort should be commended and it is a new take on the genre, it just didn’t really work for me.
*In Canada it’s just The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle but since I think it’s more well known by its other title I put that. One of the things I think is off about the book is the title. I don’t think those deaths or that character are the main point (we don’t even see most of them), so it irked me. But then I was in a mood to be irked by this book.