Writer: Stuart Turton
Publishing House: Sourcebooks Landmark
Date of Publication: September 18th 2018 (first published February 8th 2018)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’I’m a man in Purgatory, blind to the sins that chased me here.’’
What would it be like if one day we found ourselves in an another body? What if this happened on a daily basis? Us changing the vessel but retaining most of the traits that make us who we are? What if by changing identities we could turn back the time and prevent an injustice, a horrible crime? This is the wonderful premise of this exquisite novel by Stuart Turton, one of the most unique books of the year.
A man has the opportunity to stop the murder of a young woman, Evelyn Hardcastle. In full Groundhog Day mood, he is given eight days and eight identities in which he must find the one responsible for the crime, otherwise everything will become irreversible. So, during a gathering that commemorates a tragic incident in the Hardcastle estate, justice must prevail. However, the wrongs that must be made right reach beyond a single murder…
‘’Nothing like a mask to reveal somebody’s true nature.’’
The story is set in Britain, around the late 20s, early 30s from what I could gather and the thing that fascinated me most in this novel isn’t the mystery itself or the unusual background- although they are both brilliant- but the focus on human nature and its various and interminable implications. I can’t even imagine the Herculean task of creating eight different characters to become the vessels of one person, all with their own characteristics and mannerisms and resulting in such a successful and marvelously written story. I admit I was a little bit cautious prior to reading Turton’s book. I thought it would be too confusing or wordy but I couldn’t be more wrong. Obviously, I cannot write a single sentence about the plot but I swear a most solemn vow to you that you will find yourselves with your mouth open in shock for about 60% of the story. That’s how perfect this book is. So many twists, so many different, complicated, tiny pieces of an exciting puzzle. I promise you you won’t be bored or confused. And if you do get confused, it will be in the best way possible.
‘’Now you see them as I do,’’ says the Plague Doctor, in a low voice. ‘’Actors in a play, doing the same thing night after night’’.
There is seldom such a rich array of characters who are all interesting, secretive, twisted, kind, intelligent, manipulative. Think of any adjective in any language and it will apply perfectly to this perfect cast. As Aidan discovers clues -only to be left in the darkness soon after- so do we. As he meets the guests, as he gets the chance to live inside some of the characters, he gives us the opportunity to collect more evidence. We know nothing before he does and we obtain a much clearer picture of every person involved in the story. How many times can we claim this happens in a mystery? Not even in some of Christie’s finest creations, in my opinion. Personally speaking, the figure of the Plague Doctor was the king of the story. Such a creepy, intimidating, cryptic character that elevated the novel into a whole new level. He embodies the concept of the Mask perfectly since nothing is as it first appears. Everyone undergoes a major transformation and every expectation and belief is turned upside down right until the spectacular ending.
I would love to tell you so much more- good, old, blabby me- but I can’t. You absolutely, utterly (…again with the adverbs, I know…) NEED to read The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It is a reading experience unlike anything we’ve seen and read before. I would like to end this text with a question taken from the Reading Group Guide, included in the book, which I feel captures the psychological weight and the very essence of the entire story.
‘’If you know someone you loved had a devastating secret, would you choose to find out what it was or love them for who they’ve become? If you knew you did something terrible, would you want to remember or live with that shadow for the rest of your life?’’
Many thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review.