Title: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Genre(s): Adult, Mystery, Whodunnit Mystery
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Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…
TW/CW: Fatphobia, murder, death, loss of a loved one, loss of a sibling
So, I tried reading this book for the first time last year and was so confused. I was listening to the audiobook and struggled to follow along with the switching hosts and overall plot. I ended up trying this one again while following along with a physical copy of the book and did end up enjoying it.
“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?”
The plot of this one is really what drove me to pick it up. Evelyn Hardcastle is to be murdered at 11pm. Our main character has eight days and eight hosts to inhabit to help solve the murder and leave Blackheath.
That concept is was so compelling and really pulled me in. We’re immediately pulled into the chaos and mystery. The number of details that came full circle were amazing. It was really intriguing to watch the day play out, even though we were watching it in such a disjointed format.
That being said, the actual mystery was…okay. There were some things that were genuinely compelling and interesting and other things that just felt a bit meh. I did enjoy the Plague Doctor, who had a bit of a Virgil role to help Aiden escape from Blackheath. I thought the information he provided was some of the most interesting aspects of the book overall.
I also did grow to enjoy the various hosts that Adien inhabits, though we’ll get back to some of the descriptions of the characters. That was one of the things I was not in love with, though I can also understand what the author was trying to do.
The revelation of Blackheath actually was was just weird. Everything about that and tying that into Anna felt so out of place. I’m not going to lie, Anna’s back story was something I was more interested in than the Evelyn Hardcastle murder by the end of the book.
Going off of that, I think the biggest weakness of this book is that it began to feel looooooooong after a while. This is a 400-something page book and began to drag about towards the middle. I understand that the pacing and clues were necessary for some reveals that came towards the end. But yeah, it was actually boring at times and I found myself needing to take breaks to keep myself interested.
I also want to address probably the biggest source of criticism in this book, the fatphobia. One of Adien’s hosts is an incredibly overweight man and most of the time spent as this character describes his weight is pretty harming descriptions. Now, as someone who is plus size and has struggled with my weight, I’m not excusing these depictions. I do just want to point out that many overweight people have the weight gradually add on and have time to become accustomed to it. For Adien, he woke up in this body, with no time to become accustomed to it, and the author was trying to describe the jarring experience. I acknowledge that the descriptions are definitely harmful, though I’m not sure if the author could accurately describe the sensation of waking up in the various bodies without including some of these descriptions. It’s something that readers should definitely be aware of going into the book, though for me, it didn’t affect my reading experience.
“We are never more ourselves than when we think people aren’t watching.”
Evelyn Hardcastle is a fun, unique take on the whodunnit story. though it did definitely drag in the middle. If the concept intrigues you, you may want to check it out, knowing that there are definitely flaws with this book. This is a book where I enjoyed the journey more than the final destination, though I don’t feel like my time was wasted by reading it. It’s not a new favorite, but it was an intriguing read for a slow weekend.