The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…
When I finished this novel, I did casually comment on social media that the novel was ‘like playing Cluedo on acid’. Now, whilst I still stand by this short peculiar assessment. It is simply because, there is so much to process, and I read this in 24hrs. My brain was exhausted from the constant twists and turns. I still cannot even begin to fathom, just how, the writer put it all together. The flow of the novel and pace of the plot fits perfectly. I am AMAZED this is a debut novel. I will be pre-ordering ANYTHING the author produces next.
Purely to see what he concocts next, as this novel was original and epic on every level!
The novel itself, is beautiful and the artwork on the inside covers, makes be glad I own a physical copy. There is an invitation to the ball and a list of guests and household staff.
A who’s who of Blackheath is very important, as you’ll need to keep up!
We are made aware from the invite that guests must refrain from discussions of Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver, of tragic events in the past. This instantly grabbed my interest.
What are the tragic events of the past?
What significance do they have to the ball?
‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’
The novel opens on day one. Our protagonist awakes smelling of cigarettes, alcohol and body odour. He is aware of a woman fleeing and in need of help, with a killer on her heels. The killer hands him a compass and tells him to ‘head east’. When he arrives at the house, we will come to know as Blackheath. He is disorientated and dishevelled. He enquires of the woman, who he vaguely remembers as Anna. But no one is aware of such a guest. Who is Anna? Is she still in danger? Or dead?
‘The dead cannot expect a debt from the living’
Once the man is brought into Blackheath he uncovers his identity. His name is Dr Sebastian Bell, yet he has not recollection of this man. Even his own reflection is alien to him. It is a puzzle within a puzzle. Struggling with the effects of amnesia, he urges the guests to find the missing woman alive or dead. Whilst Dr Richard ‘Dickie’ Acker is summoned to attend the nasty bang to the head he has received. They also find defensive knife wounds on his arms.
What happened out there? Why is Dr Bell here? What does it all mean?
‘I’m a man in purgatory’
It isn’t long until Dr Bell is startled by a masked man, who we later come to know as the ‘plague doctor’. He warns him to be wary of the footman. Then he finds a note from Anna, arranging a meeting and offering to explain everything. Despite the two personalities inside Dr Bell, he decides to stay and solve the mystery…..
‘That’s the beauty of corrupt men, you can always rely on them to be corrupt’
Eventually we learn who Dr Bell is, his role at the ball. We also learn of the mystery surrounding Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver and the lake where it all took place. The ball is being held on the 19th anniversary of the loss of Thomas Hardcastle. But it is so much more than meets the eye. With such a bizarre bunch of guests, this is going to be one hell of a party!
‘Wealth is poisonous to the soul and my parents have been wealthy a very long time’ Evelyn Hardcastle
The plague doctor returns and explains the situation of Blackheath to Dr Bell, only this time he is Donald Davies. He offers him a proposition……
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out’
Through the plague doctor’s proposition, we come to understand just how Blackheath operates…..
‘I won’t return willingly to a madman’s game’
Our protagonist Aidan Bishop, must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. He will be able to enter various hosts, during his time at Blackheath. But never on the same day. He doesn’t have an unlimited number of hosts, he only has one per day. He isn’t aware of which host he will enter next and will have to fight their primal urges to behave in their own way. Every time he falls asleep, he enters a new host. There is no stopping or escape.
The game is well and truly afoot!
‘I know this isn’t the afterlife. Hell would have fewer servants and better furnishings’
Whilst attempting to solve the murder of Evelyn, Aidan warms to her personality. He then becomes focused on the dangerous task, of trying to prevent the murder ever happening at all….
‘Evelyn’s kind and gentle, and she’s been away nineteen years, who’d want to harm her now?’
Aidan will have to navigate other hosts trapped in the game, the violent and psychopathic footman and the illusive Anna. If he has any hope of solving the mystery and freeing himself from this eternal game of murder mystery.
‘Nobody has friends in Blackheath’ – Plague doctor
The various hosts Aidan finds himself within, are brilliantly written. They are (as said above) a unique bunch of characters. From the alcoholics, the drug users and the grabby handed perverts. Aidan must adapt to their attributes and friendship circles, to find clues.
‘You won’t get far in this house with sentiment’ – Stanwin
‘What kind of mind makes theatre of murder?’
As much as I was drawn to the mystery and scheming surrounding the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. I was also still desperate to find out the mystery of the past. Early on, I was quite convinced there must be a link between the two and the writer did not disappoint!
‘Something evil happened here and it haunts the lake still’
The plague doctor, pops up every now and then. Usually to add a new twist into the plot and steer Aidan onto further clues he had previously missed or overlooked. You never truly know who’s side he’s on. Is he working to help Aidan uncover the mystery? Or leading him to mere distractions?
‘Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded’
As you read you are desperately trying to unravel the plot. I loved the old-fashioned style era, the time hopping and the various spin off mysteries. The scheming, plotting and betrayal are brilliantly woven amongst all the guests. You never know if Aidan can trust anyone or if he can even trust himself……
A fantastic debut novel and an incredible novel to speed read! I would recommend to all bookworms, from those who read hundreds, to those who read just a few novels a year. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle is a cracking novel, not to be missed! 5*
‘He means to kill us, though not before he’s had his fun’