Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton

photo courtesy: waterstones.com

My first read of the year and what a way to kick off the reading challenge.

I just finished this book and simply had to do this review. I had heard about this book on readingthepast book blog and was keen to get my hands on it. With a title like this, can you blame me?

For a while I was going through a reading slump. Nothing really interested me, I was unable to stick to something till the end. But thankfully this one has put an end to it.

The story with its bizarre premise, is intriguing but it had a big task ahead - To convince the reader to enter that weird world, be invested in the characters and stay interested.

The book does that and more.

Gist:

Blackheath is hosting a grand party at the big house. Guests have been invited to stay and servants working hard, preparing for a ball.

But at the heart of it is a murder. Of Evelyn Hardcastle and it will happen again and again. Aidan can stop it and save her but he needs to get to the killer. But the trouble is every time the day begins again, Aidan finds himself in the body of a different guest. And someone doesn't want him solving the murder.

What works:
  • The premise is so weird - time travel, body hopping? but Turton makes it interesting. I was worried that the complicated nature of the premise will weigh down the plot but it doesnt. The superb first chapter that starts off as a very straightforward thriller like scene - takes the reader by hand, slowly taking her to the depths of the plot.
  • What I loved about the chapter is that like the narrator, it could well be the reader, finding themselves at Blackheath with no clue of why they are there. The reader gets pulled in immediately as she along with the narrator try to figure out what was happening there.
  • The style. What makes any reading experience great is the writing style. It was a joy to look for phrases and imagery that make the story telling a compelling read and an enjoyable experience. It made me take out my notebook to jot down the phrases to admire their beauty.

There's instinctive pause for my rejoinder, the rhythm of the moment collapsing under the weight of its absence.

or the description of how  the mansion Blackheath transformed at nightfall.....

The world's shrivelling beyond the windows, darkening at the edges and blackening at the centre. 

or lines so articulate that is a nod to the writer's skill...

  • Nothing like a mask to reveal somebody's true nature.

The stories are spun from one mouth to another and by the time they reach me, they're rich details and patterns, strong enough to be carried out of here and into society.

Death's rolled his dice and Evelyn's paid her debt. All that was of value has been taken.

Some of the imagery that made me chuckle:

Working within the confines of Derby's intellect is like stirring croutons into a thick soup.

I could go on and on but this is testimony to the writer's skill at not only narrating a story that is weird but believable but also add to the reading experience with its rich imagery and superb turn of phrase.

But finally hats off to the writer for building this fantasy world where nothing is as it seems  - at once concrete and abstract.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience to say the least.

What doesn't:

It feels like a fairground ride, thrilling till the end and then a feeling that all is known. But in this case because the device used is so brilliantly handled, it will be exciting to re read it again to find out how
the writer pulled out a stunt like that. There is definitely more than one reading to this book and that is where it scores.

A very well crafted story. Highly recommended.

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