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The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
3.5
Book Name: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher(s): Sourcebooks Landmark
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Mystery / Fantasy
Release Date: September 18, 2018 (US) January 1, 2018 (UK)

I never enjoy describing things with, “It’s like X meets Y!” since I always felt it was a rather lazy way to describe something. No one says, “Hamsters are like if Rats met Gerbils!” or “Oranges are like if Apples met A Different Color!” (At least, I hope no one has ever said that.) Yet when it comes to the book The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle I struggle to find a way to describe it besides, “It’s like Agatha Christie meets Groundhog’s Day”. Because that’s what it’s exactly like, down to a T. Nothing more, nothing less.

The story starts right in the middle of the action with our hero waking up in the woods with no memory save for a single name on his lips. Soon, however, he finds his purpose: to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, a young heiress to a family that’s fallen on hard times. To do this our hero must relive the same day over and over again, each time in the body of a different person visiting the Hardcastle residence during a party.

He is not alone in his mission, as he has help from a mysterious woman whose name haunts him. He is also being hunted by a deadly footman who will stop at nothing to kill every instance of our hero. There are twists, turns, and even a seemingly all-knowing fellow in a plague doctor outfit. 

Stuart Turton creates a world that really does feel straight out of an Agatha Christie mystery. Every character is unique with their own desires and goals. The Hardcastle manor itself is just as much of a character and is brought to life in wonderful descriptions of a once joyous house turned into a mausoleum for an old family tragedy. I never tired of the dialog, or how much the world changed in the eyes of each character our hero controls. Turton’s prose is truly a treat for the reader.

My biggest issue with the book, however, is found with a single character. You see, one of the people our hero takes over is fat. And by God does Turton really, really want you to hate and be disgusted by how fat he is. The author even goes out of his way to have the hero weep in self-loathing when he realizes that horror beyond horror, he’s overweight! Normally I would roll my eyes and let this pass but literally no other character in the story is described in such minute detail as the one fat character. Here is a sample describing our hero (while controlling this overweight character) eating:

“I can hear myself eating, the crush and the crack, the squelch and the gulp. Gravy runs down my chins, grease smearing my lips with a ghastly, shimmering shine. Such is the ferocity of my appetite that I leave myself panting between mouthfuls. The other diners are watching this hideous performance from the corner of their eyes, trying to maintain their conversations even as the decorum of the evening crunches between my teeth. How can a man know such hunger? What hollowness must he be trying to fill?”

This is beyond describing a character. I believe this is Turton’s fatphobia shining through, not caring if anyone reading the book could be overweight themselves. This character alone was enough to take me completely out of the book. 

All in all, The 7½ of Evelyn Hardcastle is a fun Agatha Christie-style mystery with a fascinating plot dragged down by single character. I do recommend the book, but maybe just skip a couple of paragraphs every time you see the word “fat”.

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One Comment

  1. Sounds like an interesting approach to the ensemble mystery, apart from the obsessive attitude to fatness.

    Incidentally, despite being a staple of the “the butler did it” genre – once even going so far as to have a strangled woman on a hearthrug in the library – Agatha Christie doesn’t have a single murderous servant. The butler never dunnit – except of course that one time when he wasn’t really a butler, but a baronet in disguise….

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