The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turto
CW: fatphobia, sexual assault, violence, murder, substance abuse and addiction
The Rules of Blackheath:
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…
The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.
I get the hype with this book, I really do, but in the end I found it lacking and it had one too problematic elements.
I started reading Seven Deaths a couple of months ago but I didn’t pick it back up because it is way too slow to get going. The main character wakes up in the forest, not knowing who he is or what is going on and if it wasn’t for the synopsis we would be in the same boat. By the time he finally learns about his situation I was ready to call it a day and DNF it (and the first time I tried reading it I did).
As the story went on the pacing didn’t get much better. It felt too slow, which was a shame, considering how interesting the concept was. I was told to expect a murder mystery to it didn’t take long before all the little things that brought us away from the investigation got on my nerves. The narrative didn’t flow and the only thing that made me want to keep reading was wanting to know who the next host would be and why the MC found himself in that situation. This would have worked so much better as a video game.
The ending didn’t manage to raise my opinion since it was way too similar to an episode of a popular scifi TV show (I don’t want to spoil the ending but if you’ve read the book you’ll see the similarities) and there wasn’t nearly enough time spent exploring the ramifications.
As I menitoned earlier, the hosts were my favorite part of the book. They were all white men so while they were not diverse their personalities were and while the MC was borrowing their bodies their influence was evident. With every new host the MC had a different perspective and a new way to investigate.
Now, there are two things left to discuss. Two things I haven’t seen discussed in the top Goodreads reviews, but it often mentioned in 1 or 2 stars reviews.
This book has some extreme fatphobia. The whole day spent with this host is filled with comments about how sweaty and disgusting he is and how he can barely take two steps without breathing like a furious hippo. The MC can’t stand having to stall his investigation so you could easily say that this is only his fatphobia, not the book’s. No way. Later on, he has no problem getting into fights with a hangover or running around in the body of a laudanum addict who is certainly experiencing withdrawal be then. In this book physical addiction won’t stop you, but a fat body certainly will.
Another host is a rapist. That in itself is not a problem, but even as multiple women (even his mother) make it very clear that this guy is a predator and that we has assaulted multiple women the protagonist doesn’t believe it until another man confirms it. It wasn’t commentary on how men don’t believe women, because this is never challenged. In light of the #metoo movement this is way too obvious and where I might have ignored it before because what else can I expect this reflection of our world is just too painful.
I won’t tell you not to go read this book because I’m obviously in the minority and this could end up being your new favorite, but if you were on the fence don’t bother.