November Book Spotlight: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

If Groundhog Day and Clue had a baby, it would be The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Of course, you’d also have to thrown in a sort-of amnesia to make things more interesting, but what you’d get is a truly fascinating and original tale where every little word and action is important and where the stakes are too high to lose.

You might think that reliving the same day over and over for eight days would get tedious, but in this case, you’d be wrong: each day brings a new persona, a new POV from which to solve the murder, and each and every day is vitally important. The full story is slow to be revealed as each different persona uses his particular strengths and alliances to gather more clues, and there are a number of things that don’t make sense until later on in the week as Aiden–we eventually find out his true identity–gets deeper and deeper into the mystery. The result is wonderfully twisty and turny, like a good episode of Doctor Who, and it would take me at least two rereads to catch all the important clues as they’re revealed rather than just puzzling them all together with Aiden at the end.

But Turton apparently couldn’t settle for just a fascinatingly complex murder mystery, so he threw in a few competitors all trying to be the first to escape and an assassin meant to keep Aiden from finding an answer before his eight days are up; if Aiden fails to give the murderer’s name before the end of the eighth day, he starts all over again, with no memory of anything that has happened. The stakes are, as a said, too high for Aiden to lose, and that means that every choice he makes is incredibly important. Accordingly, it’s fascinating to see him work through different scenarios with the realization that one wrong choice could mean complete failure. The amount of detail that Turton uses to weave together eight different POVs over the course of one single day is incredible, and it makes for an extremely clever narrative as Aiden works through the case.

It’s hard to say much more without giving anything important away, so I’ll just say that The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is unlike any mystery that I’ve ever read. The level of complexity is worth of Agatha Christie herself, and although it’ll take a bit of work to put all the pieces together, the ending is worth it. Turton has outdone himself with this debut, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

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