Stuart Turton is a very talented man. He states that in his debut novel, he set out to create an Agatha Christie-style novel crossed with the television show Quantum Leap to produce a unique and entertaining whodunit. In my opinion, he more than succeeds in his quest.
I am sure some readers were able to decipher all the clues and puzzle pieces within The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but I was not one of them. Every page offered up new elements of the puzzle, unveiling the depth and intricacy of the plot. Mr. Turton built the story in such a way that should one aspect of it to change, the entire structure of it would disintegrate. Instead, each carefully constructed piece fortifies the other to increase the coherency and fluidity of the story. For any author, it is a feat of writing to build such an involved world in which every character and every scene relies on everything else. For a debut novelist, it is a little intimidating and a whole lot awe-inspiring.
The story itself is insanely good. We live vicariously through Aiden Bishop as he struggles to understand what is happening. We experience his frustrations, his disbelief, and his growing concerns as his day unfolds because we are experiencing the same emotions. As each day resets and we glimpse larger pictures of the goings-on at Blackheath, our fears grow on behalf of Aiden as we instinctively understand that the situation in which Aiden finds himself is downright dangerous. There is plenty of violence to emphasize this point throughout the eight days, but there are highlights too. Aiden’s situation allows us into the minds of eight very different characters, and it forces us, and him, to reevaluate our snap judgments made as observers. No one is a saint, and there are plenty of villains, but at least we get to see some of the reasons behind their deplorable actions, which provides a nice layer to the story as it reinforces the idea that we never know what is going on inside another person’s head. In this case, we do, and it changes our opinion of each character once we do.
Mystery lovers will love The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle because Mr. Turton does establish an Agatha Christie-style novel, and what mystery lover does not enjoy a good Christie story? One should not fear the elements of fantasy in the fluid time structure of the story and jumping between characters because it enhances the mystery. Instead of a master detective or incredibly observant old woman, Mr. Turton gives us Aiden Bishop and eight different guests. No one character has all the answers, so character jumping is necessary to obtain all the clues. The answers to all of the mysteries explain everything, and you will marvel at the complexity of the story, which is so much more than it appears to be. With a debut novel as astonishing as this one, I for one eagerly anticipate anything Mr. Turton next writes. He seems to have an intelligent and somewhat devious mind, an attention to detail that borders on the fanatic, and a writing ability to pull it all together into an unforgettable story.