A man awakens in the woods and only remembers one thing: the name Anna. He hears a gunshot, a woman’s scream, and is sure that he has already lost this Anna before he found her. Desperate, and with only a broken compass to guide him, he arrives at the noble house of the Hardcastle family, long since abandoned. He learns his name is Sebastian Bell, and through a series of increasingly strange interactions he learns he is a drug dealing doctor charged with solving the mystery of a death that is yet to happen. He learns of the kindness of Evelyn Hardcastle, he learns of the Plague Doctor and Footman, and he learns that Anna may betray him.
What is The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle about?
This book is ultimately about Aidan Bishop, a man who for some reason is trapped in a time loop in which he is moved from body to body across eight hosts. The eight hosts are people staying at Blackheath, where Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered. He relives the day of her death in each body with the knowledge, skills, and mindset of his hosts increasingly proving helpful and hindering. Aidan is charged with determining who kills Evelyn and presenting that information in order to escape the time loop, as he is in competition with two rivals also aiming for escape.
Genre: Murder Mystery tinged with Time Travel
The primary plot and focus of this novel is on the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, even as the story takes several twists and turns along the way. The competition to determine Evelyn’s killer is fierce and murderous itself, and Evelyn’s isn’t the only death that takes place at Blackheath. Additionally, the use of the time loop and its repetition is important to the story and even discussed and explained.
Tropes: A Murder Most Foul
Not only does the book, obviously, concern the death of Evelyn Hardcastle, but there are other murders swirling about in the story. To avoid spoilers, I can really only mention one that took place years before the events of the novel: Thomas Harcastle’s. Thomas was Evelyn and Michael’s younger brother, who was tragically murdered as a child leading to years of trauma for the family to deal with. There are several more murders that take place around the events of this story and throughout it.
Plot: A lot more than meets the eye
Already with that whole time loop thing you might be thinking, “isn’t this book pretty different than it seems?” And you’re right, the time loop alone is an interesting concept. But there’s a lot more going on under the surface and honestly the way things were wrapped up, I never would have seen coming from the beginning. There are absolutely a lot of elements at play that you’ll have to wait for exposition on, this book is hard to predict.
I was drawn in by the concept of this book, from the “who done it” aspects to the time loop. I also feel satisfied that the time loop made sense from the explanations finally provided and my god that plot twist! I also appreciated Aidan Bishop as the main character, both for who he was as a narrator and for who he is revealed to be.
This might just be me, but I didn’t wholly like the plot twist concerning Evelyn’s character. I liked her quite a bit throughout the story, and though I was interested in the plot twist itself the fate of her character and the history that was revealed did unseat me as a reader. I think that was partially the point, as Aidan even addresses the fact that he has an affection for Evelyn due to his first host and in spite of the way Evelyn interacts with his later hosts.
I do wish there was more information about the world around this setting. The plot twist at the end reveals a whole other dimension to the world, implying another setting that we never get to see. The ending is left a bit open, and as a result I was left curious about how and why. I would have loved more explanation, but I also recognize that this book doesn’t necessarily need it to thrive.
I found this book to be entirely exciting, clever, and creative. I think that the story is a unique execution of the idea of time loops and that the ending was an incredibly twist that defied all my expectations and predictions. I was impressed by the character arcs of some of the characters–and the fact that the book’s format allowed to character arcs at all. I enjoyed the way Turton told the story from so many perspectives and yet only one. From the very premise I was hooked, and the first chapter delivered for that first impression. The rest of the novel continued to follow suit and I thoroughly enjoyed it!