“Their memories crowd the edges of my mind, the weight of them almost too much to bear. I want everything they want. I feel their aches and am made timid by their fears. I’m no longer a man, I’m a chorus.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
GENRE: Mystery/Historical Fiction/Fantasy
PUBLISHED : February 8th 2018, by Raven Books
MY RATING: 5/5
A Puzzle Like You’ve Never Seen
I must admit I’m not a frequent reader of mystery novels. Even though I love Agatha Christie of course, I haven’t read more than five modern mysteries, maybe not even that much. So, I’m not sure why I requested this ARC in the first place, or what drew me to it, and because of that I’ve been delaying this novel for months, and finally decided to get it off my chest recently – and I couldn’t be more glad that I did.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a puzzle. A puzzle you’re entirely drawn into, which you try to solve along with its main character, Aidan Bishop. The more you read, you can feel the clock ticking, as you’re running out of time to solve its big mystery. Overall, this novel reminded me of many things: Inception, Groundhog Day, Christie’s novels, even Alice in Wonderland, but mostly of a board game I used to play as a kid, called The Game of Witches. The pieces for all players were exactly same – black hollowed-out plastic ones, with an exception of the top, where an image of a witch in one of the four colors was placed. The trick of the game was this – when you start, and pull your pieces out of your starting position one by one, you have to flip them over, covering the color. This leads to all pieces being the same, black ones, and as the game advances you easily lose track of which pieces belong to you, and which ones to your opponents, leading to a confusion. Unknowingly, you may help your opponents by advancing their pieces, while thinking you’re playing with your own, all along racing to be the first one to reach the end.
“Nothing like a mask to reveal somebody’s true nature.”
That is what this novel essentially is. There are three players; a mystery to be solved, which is the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle as you might have guessed from the title; and various obstacles along the way, that may help you on your quest or turn against you. The first obstacle is that you have only eight days. The second one is that each day you will wake up as a different person – one of the guests of the party hosted by Lord and Lady Hardcastle. The third obstacle is a time-loop you’re trapped in. There are even more obstacles along the way, but I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, because as much as this novel is reminiscent of the movies and novels I mentioned, it is an entirely unique thing, standing firmly on its own bookish feet, and it is on you to explore it and solve it, if you can. The complexity of Evelyn Hardcastle may put you off, but it is in fact its strongest point. It is a masterfully constructed maze, spinning you in circles on every single turn.
“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes.”
Other than its unprecedented complexity and design, this novel brings up some important questions – are we truly what we look like on the surface? Are we defined by our tumultuous past or our present actions? Can we be redeemed for our crimes by changing our true selves? This novel masterfully plays with human nature, which is most notable is the eight hosts Aidan Bishop takes. Each one has his own agenda, his own cowardice, intelligence, urges and desires, and by the end of it, it becomes difficult to pick out the true Aidan, even for himself.
“I grit my teeth. For once, it would be a refreshing to find somebody in this place who was exactly what they appeared to be.”
Now I’ll try to shut my mouth and say nothing else, because every twist and turn in Evelyn Hardcastle is worth exploring and discovering on your own. If you love puzzles, games and mysteries like myself – then this novel is made for you. Even though I’m a huge fantasy lover, this mystery is the best novel I’ve read so far in the last couple of years. I’ll stop here and leave you with this little but significant quote:
“Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.”
P.S. A reminder to enter my very first, international giveaway! It’s ending in only two days, so hurry up, and good luck everyone! 🙂