The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton | Book Review

February 1st – March 21st

This book seemed so far up my alley I was convinced it was written for me. Every night at 11, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered. If you want to escape, come to the lake and explain who did it.

I love mysteries. I love self-contained murder mysteries, and I love the idea that the main character woke up in a different body every morning to try and solve the murder.

So I can’t really explain why I didn’t love this book. There are spoilers ahead.

The entire time, I felt like I was trudging through it. The plot interested me, but I felt like I was reading molasses trying to get to where it picked up. This book had so many peaks and valleys it was insane. With every peak, I would think to myself “This is it, this is where the book is going to pick up, and I’m going to love it from here on out.” And then it would slide back down and I would feel myself wading back through it when I wanted to fly.

The characters were fascinating. I loved how the lives of Aiden’s hosts, and their personality influenced his own investigation. I liked the looming figure of the Plague Doctor, and the uncertainty of Anna. I even liked the twists of who was trustworthy and who was not.

It really came down to the way the book was written for me. I can enjoy historical fiction, but it isn’t always my favorite genre. I’m over-generalizing, but I find that the genre has a certain style of writing to it which I can’t really attach myself to, and this was written in that style. I was hoping that they mystery elements would overshadow the writing style, but it just didn’t work for me, which was hugely disappointing.

I was also hoping that in the last 50 pages, everything would turn around, I would be able to love the book for the ending, but once again, the ending fell a bit short for me, and I was hoping the whole time that I had solved the case wrong and that there was a bigger twist that I didn’t see coming.

That being said, a bit of praise for the book: the mystery is entirely self-contained. I like mysteries where the reader can figure it out along with the characters. Too many mysteries rely on external information, like knowing a particular type of poison comes from a particular country, or having the knowledge of a connecting murder from 20 years ago that the reader has never heard about until the end. This book handled the clues, and the dispersal of clues very well (these were the peaks I talked about earlier).

This was Stuart Turton’s debut novel, and he’s currently working on his second piece. I hope he stays in the mystery genre, because I think he has a lot of potential as a writer, and I’d be interested to see what else he comes up with.