THE SEVEN DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE - by Stuart Turton
Published: February 2018 - Raven Books.
Genres: Mystery / thriller / historical / magical realism
Triggers/Content Advisory: Gory descriptions / violence / mild sexual innuendoes.
At first I wasn't in love with Turton's writing because the sentence structure felt long-winded and awkward. But as the story continues, it definitely smooths out. Before long I was utterly enamoured with the prose - the vivid details, the excellent dialogue. To give you an example: "The evening meal is lit by candlelabra and beneath their flickering glow lies a graveyard of chicken bones, fish spines, lobster shells and pork fat. The curtains remain undrawn despite the darkness beyond, granting a view toward the forest being whipped by the storm."
It's all incredibly immersive and tangible.
Speaking of which, the story is also so atmospheric. It's Gothic, very dinner-party Agatha-Christie-esque. I wouldn't recommend reading the book in short sessions with many intervals between, because to really get into the story, you need to give yourself time to be immersed. Then you can truly appreciate the lush, haunting setting, and the beguiling sense of foreboding dripping from each scene. It'll totally absorb you if you give it a chance.
The plot is brilliant. There are a ton of twists, many layers to the story, and the author is a genius. However, it is confusing. You really have to concentrate and you can't afford to switch off - even for a second. I tried my best, but by the end I was still a bit bewildered by the actual mystery. It's a lot to take it and a lot to retain from start to finish.
The cast is big, but everyone is vivid, colourful, and extremely compelling. They're all hiding something, and they're all anti-heroes and anti-heroines wearing metaphorical masks. It's sublime.
Initially, I was concerned that the protagonist changing persons every few chapters wouldn't work, but the author handles it so well by fleshing out each personality and making their point of views distinct. In the hands of someone else, it could have been a train wreck. But Turton handles it thoughtfully and carefully.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a mesmerising Agatha Christie-type mystery. It might take you a while to get into it, but if you stick with it for long periods of time, you'll soon be drawn into the spellbinding world of these illusive characters.