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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?”

There’s very little I can say about this book except that it’s one of the most original things I’ve ever read. It’s a twofold mystery, and had been compared to both Agatha Christie and Groundhog Day. I think you could throw a little comparison to Invasion of the Body Snatchers into the mix, and have an almost perfect description of this book. The atmosphere reminded me of The Haunting of Hill House, but without the ghosts. Even though this book does have things in common with each of those, it is entirely its own creature and is undoubtedly worth a read.

I’m not going to mention the characters or the setting or the mystery that encases the book. I firmly believe that this is a story that works best if you go in as blind as possible. I would even avoid reading the synopsis, if possible. Accordingly, this review will be as vague as I can manage.

One thing I can mention is the prose, which was lovely. Turton had quite a way of evoking imagery regarding things that have no physical representation, such as time and memory and anger. Here’s an example:

“One by one I knit these new memories together until I’ve got five minutes of past to wrap myself in.”

Is that not the coolest mental image of memory? And here is another one:

“Anger’s solid, it has weight. You can beat your fists against it. Pity’s a fog to become lost within.”

I didn’t realize how true this was until I read it. Isn’t this why people hate to be pitied, because we can’t fight it? It engulfs and hides and suffocates, and it’s incredibly hard to maneuver your way out of. This book was filled with lines like this, simple things written in such a way that you had to pause and ruminate on what you had just read. Turton’s novel in no way felt like a debut, and I eagerly await more from him.

Another thing I really loved about this book was the emphasis on redemption even in the midst of darkness. Depravity should be viewed as something to be overcome instead of something to succumb to, and this novel did a fantastic job of showing that no one is beyond redemption. Even the darkest soul can repent, and beneath the layers of mystery, that’s what this novel demonstrated.

As I stated above, this book is a twofold mystery. Usually I can guess at least the majority of a solution to a mystery. The only mysteries I’ve read in recent years that left me baffled until the very end, when everything was revealed, have both been mysteries penned by Agatha Christie. This book left me just as baffled. Even when I did pick up on clues, I couldn’t figure out what they meant until the reveal. Looking back, I can see the trail of clues and where they lead, but that trail was almost impossible to follow during a first reading. This is such a rarity that I have to applaud Turton for his efforts. I don’t think this is a book that would be much fun to reread more than once, but one reread would be tremendous fun if treated as a scavenger hunt, picking up clues that you missed during your first reading.

The only thing that was a drawback for me was the use of first person present tense. I just always have a problem enjoying and immersing myself in a story when it’s told using this method. Having said that, I also have to say that no other point of view or tense would have worked for this story; first person present was absolutely necessary. But though I admit that the story had to be told this way, it still hindered my enjoyment, which is the only reason this book is a 4.5 star read instead of a full 5 stars for me.

If you’re a fan of the mystery genre but you have a hard time finding a book that actually surprises you, I can’t recommend this highly enough. I’ve never read anything quite like it.

I buddy read this book with the lovely TS!

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