RogerBW's Blog

Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton 10 August 2020

2018 mystery with science-fictional elements. A man wakes up in mid-shout with no memories, in the grounds of a decaying country house during a weekend party, nineteen years after the young son of the house was murdered. And someone is going to be murdered now. US vt The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

This is a book of discovery; I suspect I'll enjoy reading it again and putting the pieces together, but I also enjoyed the game of working out what was going on. Therefore I'm not going to talk about the actual plot in more than superficial detail. (The back cover of the book gives more away than I will. I was glad to have avoided even that much.)

But there's clearly a great deal of influence from Christie here, as everyone has their secrets, and multiple plots interlock – not, as so many writers have done, on the single sin principle, where once you know a man is an adulterer you know that that will be the reason for all his inconsistencies and he can't also be the murderer, but rather keeping everyone relevant even as more complications arrive. (There's a dram. pers. at the start and I didn't feel any need to take further notes, but there's certainly rather more going on here than in the standard mystery.)

And, almost but not quite separated from that, there's the question of just what's going on, who our narrator is, and why he's there, in rather more than the basic practical sense.

If you enjoy classic murder mysteries, and even more so if you enjoy the sort of modern writer who likes to play with them but has a respect and liking for the form rather than merely wanting to deconstruct it (James Anderson's Inspector Wilkins series comes to mind), I can thoroughly recommend this. It most certainly does not abide strictly by the rules; but it never leaves the reader floundering. It's even possible to work out what's going on before the big revelation.

I might have liked a bit more of a conclusion, and one character's fatness is rather poorly handled, but those are really the only faults I can find here.

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