Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Review 2020 #7 - Stuart Turton's The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: February 8th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 458 Pages
★★★★
To Buy

Doctor Sebastian Bell loses all memory of who he is while in the woods with the name "Anna" dying on his lips. Soon he hears a reply calling for help and then the air is split by the sound of a gun being discharged. Not knowing who he is or where he is, he knows a crime has been committed and must find help. He stumbles for what seems hours until he finds a house. He is let inside and up to a room that is supposedly his. He finds an invitation addressed to a "Doctor Sebastian Bell" requesting his presence at Blackheath House for the return of Evelyn Hardcastle from Paris. So that is who he is, Doctor Sebastian Bell. He tries to compose himself while sloughing off the filth of the forest. While he knows he might not remember anything beyond this morning he knows a crime has been committed and he fears Anna is dead. He must solve this mystery no matter what obstacles are put in his path. And currently his path is blocked by someone dressed as a plague doctor. Someone who tries to convince him Anna isn't his concern. Someone who tries to tell him his only goal for the moment is to get the lay of the land. Yet his concern and curiosity is insatiable and he goes in search of Anna, finding a note from her that is oddly prescient and requesting a meeting later that night. Sebastian starts to not only fear for Anna's life but his own. Soon the prodigal daughter herself, Evelyn, is helping Sebastian in his search for Anna. It appears Blackheath House isn't a stranger to murder, Evelyn's own brother was killed years before down by the lake. Anna misses their appointed meeting, making Sebastian fear the worst, and when he returns to his room everything goes black. And then he wakes up again. And again. And again...

So, a fair amount of book reviews start with a little summery of the book, like this one here does. But whereas most reviewers are doing it to give you an overview of what to expect my reasoning is far different. I do it because it's me writing what I think the blurb on the back of the book should have been. So many book blurbs give an entirely erroneous description that I feel a need to fix it. Likewise so many book blurbs spoil important plot twists that I feel I have to shelter everyone from the spoilers. Unless I really hate the book than I'll probably spoil away. I remember a book review Nick Hornby wrote about Wilkie Collins's No Name and how under no circumstances should you read the blurb because it revealed a huge plot twist and royally pissed him off. No one wants their enjoyment spoiled by a reckless copywriter! While yes, the "original" blurb for this book is part of the reason I picked it up, I felt that it just gave too much away. In fact it's hard to write a review for this book because so much of what I loved, the twists and turns, I want you to experience and enjoy for yourself. This isn't a book to be passively consumed, you become a part of it, working out all the tiny details and trying to solve all the mysteries before the final curtain. I might have considered flow charts at one point, but decided that was taking it too far. But to find a book that you actively want to be a part of, that you can't wait to pick up again, to dig into the story, that is a blessing. This book just doesn't take you away, it asks you to come along for the ride of a lifetime, part Agatha Christie, part Quantum Leap, and totally mind melting. PS, Stuart Turton is a total Quantum Leap geek whereas I'm still pissed at the show's ending.

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