My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. I think this book could be one of my favorite reads of the year and for the author’s debut novel is a seriously impressive feat of ingenuity.
How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?
At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.
The overriding feeling from this book is of a classic Agatha Christie style murder mystery and it has all the best elements of this, a number of guests invited to a party on the anniversary of a tragedy, an isolated location, an absent host, old grudges and long held secrets and a general feel that nothing is truly as it seems. Added to this however is a Groundhog Day, or possibly more Quantum Leap, type element with main protagonist Aiden Bishop tasked with solving a murder before it happens by repeating the day over and over again in a series of different roles (hosts) each of which has some kind of link to the mystery.
It’s an absolutely brilliant and unique premise that adds an extra layer of complexity and intrigue to the story I wasn’t expecting. It’s a very intricately plotted mystery and one I would say requires all of your concentration (and probably a notepad to keep track of multiple characters and timelines) but it’s worth it. I read this over the course of a weekend while trapped indoors by snow (and a bit of a cold) and it worked so well as it allowed me to completely immerse myself in the very vivid and atmospheric world the author creates.
The setting feels a little Downton Abbey, with the country estate, Lord of the manor and servants dotted about but from the very beginning it is clear that all is not as it seems. There’s a feeling that there’s more going on than meets the eye and something dark and sinister lurking just below the surface. Something that also seems to apply to most of the characters who are never quite what they appear to be.
This is particularly true for Aiden who spends the story in the guise of someone else, making him a very intriguing character. Who he is and how he’s ended up in the position he’s in is just as much of a mystery as who the murderer is. He has no memories of who he was before and no knowledge of his hosts either and this is where it most reminded me of Quantum Leap (a show I was obsessed with as a teen). Aiden has to look in a mirror to discover what he looks like and slowly unravel who each of his hosts are, and they are a decidedly mixed bunch. Most would definitely not be considered your typical hero, they are downright horrid, and even those who seem initially good often have a little bit of darkness lurking inside.
There is certainly a lot to think about in this story and it’s really worth taking your time over. I very much liked the authors writing style and found myself highlighting sections here, there and everywhere partly in hope of solving one of the many mysteries but mainly because I just really loved it.
In terms of actually solving it, I did get bits here and there but I think that was mostly due to guessing just about everything and suspecting everyone rather than any kind of skill on my part. There are so many twists, turns and red herrings that I think even the most experienced sleuth would struggle. Although I should say that once the truth was revealed I could see the hints the author had scattered throughout and I have been very tempted to read it a second time to really appreciate it.
This book is certainly one of a kind and I even a few days later there are elements of it still buzzing around my head in the best possible way. If you like complicated mysteries and don’t mind a little bit of genre bending I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this. All gushing over this brilliant book is my own.