The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

From the get go, this book starts with an adrenaline rush. The lead character has no clue who he is and must try to save someone else too, without actually knowing what is going on. He is just as clueless as the reader. A beginning that pulls the reader in. Absolutely captivating.

The premise seems to be solving a simple murder that, for all appearances, is suicide, but with time loops and body swaps and a medieval Plague Doctor, there are a lot of sci-fi elements. Every chapter has something new to offer. A different take with slightly more information than before. The perfect page turner.

The protagonist himself has no idea who he is. He must inhabit a series of hosts to relive the day again and again till he solves the murder. Each time, he imbibes some qualities from the host, but he never really knows who he is.

The book seems to be set in the 1900s, and refers to some war, which I can only assume is the first World War, because if it were the Second World War, it would be called so. Although this isn’t established yet. The lack of technology like cellphones and the classism between the household staff and the guests also points to somewhere in the 1900s. Possibly before the 1950s.

A beautiful girl dying at the end of the ball. Why is the Plague Doctor obsessed with her murder? Why insist on such a weird way to solve it? Who is the the Plague Doctor? Who is the protagonist? Why choose these eight hosts in particular or was it random?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton - Children's Book  Illustrations at Rogans Books

This reminds me a little bit of the movie Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga. In the movie, he relieves the last eight minutes of his life, again and again, to find the bomber. Though there are plenty of differences between this book and the movie, the resemblance is apparent too.

But as a book the idea is more fleshed out and developed with more clarity than as a two hour movie. I would actually love to see a series based on this book. Each episode marking a different host. A limited mini series would be perfect. Someone like Christopher Nolan or his brother Jonathan Nolan (who was also responsible for a similarly confusing series called Westworld) could direct this and I would watch all episodes without break. The eight narratives intersect seamlessly and the interconnectivity is perfectly executed. At times, it does it get confusing, but eventually all is explained. The reveal at the end is unpredictable and putting down the book is impossible, especially in the climax.

The book is also reminiscent of Doctor who episode Heaven Sent. (https://musicmoviesandmurder.wordpress.com/2020/07/11/doctor-who-day-29/). The episode has a time loop too and is also a form of prison. Though the storyline is vastly different, there are some similarities. Or maybe I just love convoluted plots?!!! Speaking of Doctor Who, Steve Moffat would be an excellent writer to helm the writing team for the onscreen adaptation too. After all, he wrote Heaven Sent.

To surmise, everyone must read this book. It’s an absolute page turner and one of the best books I’ve ever read. A lot of hard work, went into planning the details and the chapters. Not a single word seems unnecessary to understanding the plot. Everything is precise and concise. A masterclass in writing without yammering endlessly.

Score: 10/10

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