The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

When Turton’s debut novel was chosen as our next library reading group book I was pleased as punch. Not only because I remembered reading a lot of good/great/intriguing reviews for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle when it first came out, but also because we’d read a couple of doozies and it was about time something I was genuinely interested in was chosen. Sad to say that the rest of the group didn’t particularly enjoy themselves, but I had a blast reading this – with the caveat that the ending did not deliver for me: this was definitely a journey rather than destination kind of reading experience.

Aiden Bishop lives the day of Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder over and over again, his consciousness housed in a different ‘host’ each day. He has eight days in which to discover who the murderer is by making the most of each of his hosts’ points of view, all the while competing with two unknown rivals in the same predicament as he is and stalked by the murderous Footman.

The setting, an English country house called Blackheath and its extensive grounds, is a more fully rounded character than Aiden. While he has no memory of how he came to be at the Hardcastle ancestral pile and moves from body to body, taking on a little of each host’s own characteristics so that he never quite knows what kind of person he is himself, Blackheath looms dark and solid. The house is cut off from the world outside by a dense surrounding forest and is a gloomy, neglected place that has been opened up especially for the party of guests and family who have arrived, ostensibly to celebrate Evelyn’s return to England from Paris. But Blackheath was the scene of the gruesome murder, years before, of Evelyn’s little brother Thomas, and no amount of effort can make it a happy place. In fact, the choice of venue is deeply suspect.

As are most of the guests. There are more secrets than just murder under this roof and many shades of guilt among its visitors. Six out of the eight characters that Aiden inhabits are dreadful people in one way or another, and in trying to unravel the truth surrounding Evelyn’s death he uncovers more plots, schemes and intrigues than there are chapters in the book. This makes it hard to care about anyone. Aiden has so little knowledge about himself that he is part ghost and his various hosts colour his thoughts and actions to further complicate the reader’s sense of who he is. Is he a good person? Is he fighting the good fight? It’s hard to know. The large cast of guests and servants at Blackheath are equally troublesome – we see different sides to people depending on who Aiden is inhabiting at any one time, and everyone appears to be complicit in something or other.

Because the plot is a puzzle, this lack of sympathetic characters didn’t worry me as much as it otherwise might have. My brain was happy to mull over Turton’s clever constructions and the steady stream of questions that arose from every new twist and turn, (I’ve never needed a murder board so much; I’d love to see the author’s notes/plans for this novel). I’ve mentioned before that I read different kinds of books for different reasons – some for ideas, some for all the feels etc – The Seven Deaths I read for the satisfaction of a slowly pieced together problem, like a sudoku or a crossword, with most of the pleasure derived from each new scrap of information interlocking and shedding light on the remaining bits of the puzzle.

The ending, however, was where I felt things fell a little flat. The reason why Aiden is caught in the loop at Blackheath was not so satisfying. Or rather, it required that I care about him and his real life in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I got a kick out of learning Blackheath’s purpose, and was entertained by the idea of other settings that worked in the same way (does anyone remember the 1997 movie Cube? It made me think of that, weirdly), but I couldn’t make the emotional/moral judgement needed at the end because I didn’t feel the book had equipped me to do so. If that makes sense? (I’m also not sure I agree with the ending … but that’s a more complicated thing to have to think about).

I got a lot of enjoyment out of the powerful atmosphere in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and from the way in which the story is constructed. If I never engaged emotionally with this novel, that’s not the author’s fault (or concern even), as it was definitely talking to a different part of my brain. And if I felt a little deflated by the ending, I was more than recompensed by the sheer number of deaths that occurred, in dark and creepy circumstances. (And no, I will not be taking questions at this time about why I enjoy books where lots of people die).


Two enthusiastic thumbs up for the journey. One waggly sideways thumb up for the destination.




  1. I enjoyed this much as you did, the journey more than destination. The ending was very underwhelming imo, particularly considering all the buildup. But the majority of this novel worked very well indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember loving this when I read it the first time. Actually, reading your review has made my want to read the book again. I really enjoyed The Devil and the Dark Water too, so looking forward to whatever Turton writes next.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I still haven’t read this author although I own a copy of this and The Devil and the Dark Water – what is wrong with me? – anyway, lovely review, it definitely makes me want to give my head a wobble and move this up the list.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed the time loop aspect of the story, but I also didn’t care about the resolution because I didn’t care for the characters… it was really hard to get invested in the ending since I didn’t care whether the MC lived or died. It was fascinating, though, to watch how Turton wove the threads together! I’d be curious to see a murder board for this one, too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s