My book club picked another book that I’d never heard of and most likely would not have read without their peer pressure. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018) by Stuart Turton takes place on a run-down English estate, probably in the mid 1900’s. It is a unique mix of genres: there is a classic, Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, a body switching main character who doesn’t know who he is or why he’s there, and a science-fiction-y explanation for everything.
Our protagonist, whose name we later find out is Aiden Bishop, finds himself in baffling circumstances. He doesn’t know who he is, he just saw a woman get murdered, and he’s lost in the woods. As the day goes on, he comes across mysterious notes and signs, and his life is threatened. The next day, he wakes up on the same day (like Groundhog Day), but in the body of someone else. He is informed that he is at this estate party to discover the murderer of Evelyn Hardcastle–the daughter of the owners of the estate. There are two other people with the same goal and one of them is intent on killing him. If he can prove who the murderer is, then he will be able to leave. Aiden has eight days (and eight different bodies) to reach his goal.
I thought this book was very original with good, descriptive writing. I was impressed by how the author could keep so many people and details straight and create a story out of all of it. The whodunit part of this book was very intricate and definitely kept me guessing until the reveal. I also found how Aiden experienced living in other people’s bodies (older, fatter, smarter, etc.) very interesting.
However, I didn’t love this book. We never really find out who Aiden is or what motivates him. In addition, the “rules” of this game feel entirely arbitrary. I had a hard time accepting it as real, and without that realism, I cared less about what happened to the characters.
When everything is finally revealed, it seems like a sharp left turn into an entirely new genre. But there is no time to really explain it even if it could be explained. On the one hand, I admired the originality and how it made me think, but I was also frustrated by the craziness of it all and my lack of connection to the characters.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.