Oct 13 2019

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

That was wild, if you can ignore how incredibly unlikely the technology for the framing device was. Like, how did they have the personalities of all those other people on file? And what kind of punishment is it to essentially be in a murder mystery party forever? Hannibal Lecter would just solve all the world’s unsolved homicides in a year. Tho I suppose if one subscribes to the idea that most criminals are impatient dumbasses, then this absolutely works. Anyway, it’s weird to me when authors construct meticulous plots but decide to handwave nearly all the tech. I get it, science can be hard, but I feel like this has become more prevalent in recent years as mainstream writers attempt what’s essentially science fiction.

Which isn’t to say that this is a bad book at all: it’s a really good mystery and I’m just the kind of person whose tech background makes me twitch when bad tech stands in counterpoint to good story. Because The 7 1/2 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle maintains a wonderful internal logic, once you learn to accept or ignore the plot twist near the end that explains how this is all happening. So a man with no memories wakes at the start of an 8 day stretch in which he will inhabit a different body every day. At 11 p.m. each night, Evelyn Hardcastle will die. He must solve her murder or stay doomed to repeat that 8-day cycle forever.

Set in a post-war England at the crumbling estate of Blackheath, this is a twisty Agatha Christie murder mystery with a very cool Quantum Leap bent. That Quantum Leap bent is, in fact, what makes this book truly stand out in a crowded manor house mystery market (tho gosh, I wish the tech made as much sense as QL’s admittedly shaky intertwining of quantum physics and moral philosophy did!) It’s a solid whodunnit with excellent pacing and some really deep thoughts on morality and redemption. I would have liked to see what happened to our hero and Anna next but can understand why Stuart Turton chose to end the novel where and how he did. It’s a thought-provoking novel that relies on technology as its catalyst, tho I rather wish as much thought had been given to the details of that tech as were clearly given to everything else about this finely crafted mystery.

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