Book Review: ‘The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’


Natalie Brink graphic

“The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” was published in 2018 and won that year’s Best First Novel Prize in the Costa Book Awards.

Natalie Brink, News Editor

I often find myself browsing the book section in Target, but I hardly ever impulse buy books. When my eyes landed on “The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,” though, I knew I had to have the book. Its cover recalled the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and its blurb promised a fresh take of the classic murder mystery. I bought it without a second thought.

Stuart Turton’s novel tells the story of Aiden Bishop, a man forced to solve the murder of a troubled socialite, Evelyn Hardcastle. He wakes up in the body of a new host every morning and relives the day of Evelyn’s murder, using the assets of his hosts to uncover the murderer. He soon learns that he has competition: a mysterious woman named Anna who seems to know what he is doing before he does it and the sinister footman who torments his lonely hours.

After falling in love with Agatha Christie’s books this summer, I thought that this mystery would be a perfect read. Unfortunately, Turton’s plot is about as messy as it can get. I would have stopped reading about halfway through because it was so needlessly complicated, but there were just enough questions to keep me reading. Every page, the plot suffered. Turton was so concerned with tripping the reader up that he neglected to create a foothold for the reader to cling to as they were bombarded with overlapping timelines and a multitude of characters who were actually the same character. The ending, instead of wrapping up the loose ends, included a twist that ruined a central character and opened the book up to more questions.

In all of these confusing plot lines and unnecessary twists, the characters become secondary. Aiden assumes the personality of his hosts, leaving no room for his own character to shine. The other characters he interacts with are similarly lacking in personality, which makes the story seem much longer than it actually is. Though the premise of having Aiden inhabit different people to solve the murder is exciting, Turton fails to use it in a meaningful way.

This book offers a complex plot, rich with information for mystery fans to unpack while reading. But if you don’t want to have to take notes and fill in a spreadsheet while you read, you’d probably be better off finding another book.