I’m stuck between wanting to spend an entire review ranting or just to let it be and just put in a mini-review. I’m still undecided. I expect this will take some time.
THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE
by Stuart Turton
Sourcebooks, September 2018
Mystery, fantasy, crime
Rated: 2.5 / 5 cookies
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…
When I read the premise, I was very excited about reading this book. I mean, who doesn’t love a cozy mystery, right? On top of this being a mystery, it’s also a fantasy. Guys. It’s a fantasy whodunnit.
So I put on the audiobook and began to listen.
Now, turns out the fantasy aspect comes in the way of a man–Aidan–repeating the day over and over again not just as a guest, but as a guest in a different body every day. According to the cycle, Aidan goes through seven hosts, and if he can’t solve the mystery of the murder by the end of the seventh host, the cycle repeats itself.
This was not too clear in the beginning, where Aidan kind of blunders around in his first body. All I knew at that point was that there was a murder, but it wasn’t of Evelyn…not until the second (or third) body is it clear that Evelyn actually dies that night.
But ohhhh boy, do we get into a doozy, as each body switch that Aidan undergoes unravels a part of the mystery of Evelyn’s death–and an even bigger mystery of why Aidan is here to begin with.
I loved the premise. I loved the ride I was getting into through the audiobook. The narrator had set up the scenes, and even with the switch of character, the audiobook narrator had a fantastic way of varying his voice to differ for each of the seven hosts.
Now, all this was hunky-dory up until the point where we figure out the mystery itself. And boy, it was one convoluted unravel after the other.
Unfortunately, this was where things fell from a good 4-cookie review to a meh-review.
This is where I might let out a few spoilery things from time to time, so be forewarned.
Throughout the book, there was clearly some bigger picture that Aidan had forgotten. One of the characters–a seemingly omniscient “Plague Doctor”–kind of tries to hint at this throughout Aidan’s bumbling of the mystery, but can only do so through the “game’s” parameters.
When things are finally revealed, it turns out that Aidan–as righteous and concerned as he is in saving Evelyn and Anna (another character)–is no less cruel than half the people in the book. This includes the psychopathic footman (whose entire character arc is to go off on a killing spree because wow, he just likes killing things) and the actual sociopathic murderer.
If that wasn’t enough of a bummer, the fact that the main female characters were annoying as frell added to my growing disappointment of the end. Evelyn was interesting on the first day of the story, mean-spirited on the second, and just downright I-don’t-even-know-why by the end.
I just…I saw no reason for why Aidan falls for Anna. Every single encounter during those seven hosts gave little reason for why. When we find out what the actual relation was between Aidan and Anna, and Aidan finally regains his memory, he goes and…still falls for her.
I mean. Uh. What the flying eff?
[UBERSPOILER] If my loved ones got offed by a murderer I would NOT be jumping hoops to try to break said murderer out of a prison, even if they did undergo a drastic change for the better. Just saying. [/ENDUBERSPOILER]
Seriously, couldn’t we have just stuck to the main mystery? Not that that was any less of a letdown, but it at least concluded things?
Again, I get the overall message. I get that the entire purpose of the “game” was to show change and a change of heart, even. And I had really enjoyed this mystery for the first half. I think things just fell flat for me by the end, which is a shame, because I really wanted to love this book.
2.5 out of 5 cookies! I have no Limelight Ladies this time around, because I really didn’t like any of the females in the book, which, again, is another thing that annoyed me.