Warning: There may be spoilers in this review.
Evelyn Hardcastle is going to die. She is going to die again and again until Aiden Bishop can figure out who her killer is. Only when he figures out who is behind her untimely death will he be freed from the loop of reliving the day of The Masquerade Ball hosted at Blackheath.
Aiden wakes up every day in a different person’s body. Each person is supposed to bring him more clues to piece together who is behind Evelyn’s death. But, Aiden is sidetracked when the only person he can remember before his time at Blackheath is Anna. Who is Anna, and what does she mean to him?
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. It’s a thriller that leaves readers trying to piece it together until the very end. Turton has a unique ability to weave together various storylines and timelines without missing a beat.
Since Aiden inhabits different hosts each day, he is able to communicate with himself to solve the murder — just himself in a different body at a different point in time. It’s all rather confusing up until the very end. It takes a true genius to think this up and be able to keep up with it.
“One by one I knit these new memories together until I’ve got five minutes of past to wrap myself in.”
There are a few key characters in the book — one of them is Anna. Aiden wakes up thinking Anna has been killed only to discover that she may in fact be an adversary in his attempt to leave Blackheath and solve Evelyn’s murder. Another is the so-called “Plague Doctor” that seems to be around every corner thwarting Aiden’s efforts to solve this murder. A key theme of the book is trust — who can Aiden trust if he can’t even trust himself and his memories?
“Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.”
[I hate to include this spoiler, but I can’t talk about the book without mentioning one of the twists at the end.]
Aiden finds out on his sixth or seventh day that Blackheath is in fact a prison meant for only the darkest of criminals. Aiden is not one of those criminals, he came to Blackheath to seek revenge, but he is still subjected to the same fate as the prisoners — solve the crime, and you will be free. Evelyn’s death is very real, but no one had ever been able to solve it, which is why it was the perfect prison for the world’s evilest souls.
I find the mere concept of a prison like Blackheath fascinating. Is that where we may be headed as a society? A prison of the mind rather than of the body? A prison where the captures are truly worthy of a psychological trap? Who am I to know, but I think it’s worth discussing on many fronts; is this a type of psychological torture, does anyone deserve this, is this what the future could look like?
“The Plague Doctor claimed Blackheath was meant to rehabilitate us, but bars can’t build better men and misery can only break what goodness remains. This place pinches out the hope in people, and without that hope, what use is love or compassion or kindness?”
My only true critique of this piece is that it felt like it wrapped up too quickly. Readers reach the twist and Turton finishes the book in fewer than 30 pages — and the twist is big enough that you should need more than 30 pages to wrap everything up satisfactorily. It felt like Turton created this intricate world and story and got bored with it by the end so he just finished it. I would have liked some more exploration in the end about everything Aiden learned over the last 300+ pages.
Despite the quick ending, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a work of intricate art challenging characters and readers-alike to keep up with Turton’s fast-paced, topsy-turvy thoughts. It’s a work like none other, and if you’re looking for a thriller with a twist, this is the book for you.