Well, my mind was officially blown by this one! Groundhog Day crossed with Gosford Park crossed with Source Code, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is ostensibly a 'golden age' murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie - but the hero is not quite all he seems.
The story starts with Sebastian Bell standing in a forest in the rain, shouting the name 'Anna'. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there, but he knows someone is about to die and he has to save them. By the time he's found his way out of the forest we know he's a guest at a country house party/masquerade ball given by Lord and Lady Hardcastle, almost nineteen years to the day that their seven year old son Thomas was murdered. Oh, and he's not really Sebastian Bell at all but Aiden Bishop, forced to re-live this day over and over, inside the head of a different guest until he solves another murder due to happen before midnight tonight. Are these two deaths connected? Can he stop the second one from happening? And are there others like him, equally determined that he won't succeed?
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an extremely clever, high-concept murder mystery. It's best read in big chunks to appreciate the author's skill and to avoid becoming too confused by the spider's web of a plot. Aiden spends a lot of time running around Blackheath House not knowing what is going on, which I liked - I love being dumped in the middle of the action and hate too much backstory. There are a lot of characters, who all have important roles to play, but there is a list of them at the front of the book to help you keep track. You'll need to concentrate because the twists come thick and fast, particularly towards the jaw-dropping end. I have to admit I gave up trying to work out who the murderer was and just enjoyed the ride!
Highly original, fiendishly clever and definitely recommended!
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which will be published on 8th February 2018.
Thank you to Stuart Turton, Raven Books (Bloomsbury Publishing), and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.