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BWW Review: THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton

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BWW Review: THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton "How many times have we done all of this?" I ask.

"Thousands, I suspect. More than I could possibly count."

"So why do I keep failing?"

He sighs, looking over his shoulder at me. There's a sense of weariness in his bearing, as though every loop is sediment, pressing down on him. "It's a question I've pondered myself from time to time," he says, melting wax running down the side to stain his glove. "Chance has played its part, stumbling when being surefooted would have saved you. Mostly, though, I think it's your nature."

~THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE

One of the most brilliant and thought-provoking books to come my way in recent years is THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton. It debuted in 2018 to critical acclaim and recently re-released in paperback. If you're looking for a book that will challenge the mind and make you think while keeping you glued to the story and turning pages as fast as you can, then this is absolutely your next read.

Reminiscent of Groundhog Day and David Levithan's EVERY DAY, diving into this world will also make you think you've fallen into a game of Clue. Whodunnit? Who are you and heck, where are you? Who is Evelyn Hardcastle, and who murdered her and disguised her death as a suicide? You have eight days to solve the crime, waking up each day in a new body and receiving new clues. If you can't crack the case, your memory is wiped and the cycle repeats anew. For weeks. Months. Years. Decades. Centuries. Who knows how long you'll be stuck here? Trapped in this vicious cycle attempting to solve the unsolvable and escape, hunted down by other players desperate to do the same. Only one of you will ever make it out alive, but nobody has ever solved this cold case. Evelyn Hardcastle dies at 11 p.m. every day, again and again, at her own hand, and every day, someone continues to get away with murder.

The layers that make up this plot are so intricate and complex that it's hard to outline them in a review. Our main character doesn't know himself or his past. He wakes up disjointed, in a forest, with no memories save the name Anna. He sees someone shot in front of him -- possibly Anna? -- and spends the day trying to make sense of things, only to wake up in a new body the next day. He discovers that he is one of three people trapped in this world, forced to relive the same day over and over again. He is the only one of the three who wakes up in a new body each day, and doesn't know if the others want to help him....or kill him.

I'm fairly good at figuring out mystery plots early on, picking up on small clues, so I don't frequently read the genre. I thought I had this figured out less than a hundred pages in, then came up with a new theory a couple of pages later. I was constantly questioning and theorizing and completely blindsided as the book hit its climax. This is one of those books. You know the ones. The book you need to instantly talk about with other people, but can't, because nobody else has read it. The last time I needed to connect and talk to someone like that was when I was one of the first to read (the at the time, still unknown) GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn.

It has taken me half a year to put my thoughts together, and I still struggle to describe this book and tell you how amazing it is. It is one of the best books I've read this year -- and even in recent years, period. I was confused in the beginning alongside our main character, but quickly sucked up in the world and the deceit and the intrigue. Some of the host bodies he finds himself in from day to day are incredibly unsavory, but each one adds so many new layers and revelations to the plot. They're each written differently in tone as well, so it was easy to keep them separate and it never felt boring reliving the same day on a loop because each day was a new facet of the same diamond. In fact, each one shapes and changes our narrator fundamentally. Everyone is unreliable, and nobody can be trusted, which makes digging for the truth and finding answers even harder to do.

I couldn't put this book down and was up late reading a couple of days in a row because I needed answers. It will be interesting to see what Turton writes next. He says he won't return to this format or structure, but I would love a book that dives into the mechanics of how.....some late revelations come into being, to put it very simply. At the moment, Turton is tentatively scheduled to publish his next novel in 2020 should all go well and remain on track. I, for one, can't wait to hear more about it!

THE 7/12 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton was published on September 18, 2018 from Sourcebooks.
The UK Edition, THE SEVEN DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE, was published on February 8, 2018 from Bloomsbury / Raven Books.


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