The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was the 2018 debut novel of British author Stuart Turton. The novel is a very creative murder-mystery that is done in a time loop. There is a large cast of characters which at times was overwhelming. I found myself often going back to the beginning of the book where the list of characters is presented.
The novel starts with the narrator, who has amnesia, waking up in the forest. He believes he hears someone named Anna being murdered. A mysterious person gives him a compass and tells him to head east to Blackheath Manor. There he learns that he is a doctor named Sebastian Bell. He is at Blackheath Manor because the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, are hosting a party for their daughter, Evelyn, who has returned from Paris after many years abroad. Strangely, the party is on the anniversary of the death of one of Evelyn’s brothers many years before. Dr. Bell is soon met by a masked character known as “The Plague Doctor” who explains the rules of Blackheath. The body of Sebastian Bell is actually one of eight hosts that the narrator (Aiden Bishop) will occupy over the next eight days. Except, it isn’t really eight days. It is one day being played over and over in a time loop. Each night at 11:oo pm Evelyn Hardcastle will die. If Aiden can figure who murders Evelyn by the time he has occupied all eight hosts, he will be allowed to leave Blackheath Manor. If not, the cycle will start over and he will once again become Sebastian Bell, with no memory of the past.
Thus begins the wild ride of this book. To make the task of solving the mystery more difficult, each host is being hunted by an assassin known as The Footman who is trying to kill them. Several of them die at his hand before solving the mystery. Each host has different skill sets and limitations. No one is as they seem. Understanding who to trust is the key to solving both the mystery of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle and also the mystery of why Aiden Bishop is a prisoner at Blackheath Manor.
4-stars for the creativity of the novel. 3-stars for the overly large cast of characters who sometimes bog down the story. I was fortunate to win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway a few months ago so my thanks to the sponsor.
And now for my Recipes For Readers recommendation: