Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar place. Not jut an unfamiliar place, but an unfamiliar body and an unfamiliar life. You then discover that this is intentional. You have been brought to this place to solve a crime. There are eight chances. Eight bodies. And if you don’t solve the mystery, then you shall have to start over from the beginning, with no memory. Here’s the rub, though. You’re not the only one trying to solve the mystery. Stuart Turton’s The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a mystery novel that is something like a combination of Agatha Christie, Quantum Leap and it is stunning to read.
1. Thoughts on the plot
There is a lot going on with this plot. Not only do you have several main characters—well, only one main character, but the body jumping adds eight more to that—but you have several supporting characters, including the suspects. Included in this complex web are the events of the day that lead up to the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, some of which make absolutely no sense, some of which seem like one thing and then become another. The plot clears up a touch as you move along, but this is definitely not something you can casually read. As a lover of mystery, I thought the plot was absolutely wonderful and really well thought out. I can only imagine the storyboarding involved in trying to keep everything straight.
2. Thoughts on the main character
Our main character, Aiden Bishop, is not an easy person to suss out. Part of the problem is that his personality often clashes or is overwhelmed by the personality of his host body. This makes for a very interesting read, as it is quite difficult to determine what parts are those of Aiden Bishop and what parts are those of the people whose lives he’s borrowed. Despite this complexity, I find that I really like Bishop. He is a character who doesn’t know why he’s been thrown into this horrid situation, but still manages to do his best to stop it. Not because solving the mystery brings his freedom from the terrible place, but because he seems to genuinely care about what is going on and about the people involved. Bishop is a likeable character, which is very interesting, since many of his hosts are not at all likeable. The way their personalities overlay Bishop’s and the way their lives cause the drama to play out is nothing short of artful.
3. Favourite part
This book was filled with so many interesting twists and turns that it’s not really possible for me to narrow it down to a single favourite part. I liked seeing the mystery being pulled together with the various threads. I think the part where we realised that things could be changed was extremely significant and the reactions of all involved probably made that one of the most noticeable for me. Though, I should have to say that I liked the whole book. There was no one favourite part.
I think the revelation about the, ah, circumstances that put Bishop into this realm of mystery (sorry, cannot say more for spoilers) was a bit underdeveloped. This is significant—hugely so—and it feels almost like an afterthought in the light of the mystery. Don’t get me wrong, I love mystery. I think that this book could have been nothing other than what it was, but I would have liked to have known more about this particular… situation.
Overall, I would say that The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was an extremely well-done mystery novel. The premise was unique, the characters were interesting and I devoured this book within a very short amount of time. It was not at all what I would have expected and I’m thankful for that. I think that this book is definitely EXCELLENT.