2 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Title:The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle/The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Author: Stuart Turton

Genre: Fantasy / Murder Mystery

Publisher: Raven Books / Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication date: February / September 2018
Paperback: 438 pages

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed. Again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell and Agatha Christie.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): ebook



The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a high-concept novel: an interesting Groundhog Day meets Agatha Christie meets Inception concoction with a lot of potential but which unfortunately turned out to have more lows than highs.

A man wakes up one day in a body he doesn’t recognise, memoryless – he comes to in the middle of screaming a name, “Anna”. He soon learns he is one of the guests at Blackheath, a country estate where a gala in homage to Evelyn Hardcastle is to take place that night. Our man feels at a loss and when he is a victim of a violent attack he learns that 1) he is playing a deadly game, 2) that he signed up for and 3) he has been playing it for decades and 4) the rules are simple:

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. The man needs to find out the name of the killer and hand it over to the person in charge. Only then he will be allowed to leave  Blackheath. In order to solve the mystery, he will relive the day of the murder eight times, each day starting in the body of a different witness. If at the end of the eighth witness’ “life”, he doesn’t know the killer, the day reboots and the eight day-eight witness restarts with him back to being memoryless.  There are other two players competing in the game to find out the murderer. Only one person can leave. And they will stop at nothing.

The point of the body jumping is that each witness brings something– a particular take, a particular skill, a particular placement during that fateful day that could be useful. But since every loop starts with him memoryless, usually the first two experiences and bodies are more of less useless what with the fear, the disorientation, the denial.  And so our man, let’s call him Aiden, has been going through this over and over and over again. Except this time? This time it’s different. He knows he will solve the crime this time.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while now, having read the book a couple of months ago. I have very mixed feelings about it. Allow me to expound.

On the one hand, the high-concept is undeniably cool. The first few chapters are intriguing and engaging, the conceit of the novel and the mystery surrounding the character, the players and the game itself, page-turning while they remain a mystery.  The solution to the murder case was actually unexpected (and a clever play on the novel’s own title).

On the other hand, I had a lot of questions once the reasons behind the game itself and the background behind Blackheath are revealed as a futurist prison where people are serving purgatory-like prison sentences for crimes committed. The main one is: why. Why exactly did this prison want to solve this murder in particular or even why they even need it to be solved this way. I mean, you have a highly developed technology capable of keeping people in limbo imprisoned and switching bodies and yet you don’t have the skills to investigate a simple murder case? OK.

Further, the prison system works as purgatory, prison sentence and second chance rodeo all thrown in together, which if you really think about it makes no sense whatsoever once you realise the “players” don’t retain full memories of their crimes. Can there be true redemption if you don’t know what you did? However this is arguably more of an ethical conundrum and discussion to be had around the novel rather than a flaw.

What I do see as a flaw and one I could not get past is the depiction of some of the characters and the inherent fat shaming that accompanies the narrative. The third body that Aiden inhabits is that of a fat banker named Ravencourt. First it is important to note that when Aidan slips into a body, he is both still conscious of who he is but he also absorbs some of the host’s personality. Ravencourt is supposed to be loathsome (ostensibly because he is a banker, according to the author’s Q&A included with the novel, although that never comes across in the narrative) as well as the cleverest character Aiden comes in contact with. However, most of the time that Aidan is inside the banker is spent on self-loathing because of the fatness of the character.  The fat shaming comes from the character itself (internalised) but also from Aiden and I argue that this is supported by the narrative itself with the way other characters look at him and interact with him. Some of the most egregious examples of that are below.


“That’s when he begins to undress me. I have no doubt this is all part of the routine, but the shame’s too much to bear. Though this isn’t my body, I am humiliated by it, appalled by the waves of flesh lapping against my hips, the way my legs rub together as I walk.”

“We walk slowly, the valet tossing news at my feet, but my mind is fixed on the ponderousness of this body I am dragging forward. It’s as though some fiend has remade the house overnight, stretching he rooms and thickening the air. Wading into the sudden brightness of the entrance hall, I’m surprised to discover how steep the staircase now appears. The steps I sprinted down as Donald Davies would require climbing equipment to surmount this morning. Little wonder Lord and Lady Hardcastle lodged Ravencourt  on the first floor. It would take a pulley, two strong men, and a day’s pay to hoist me into Bell’s room.”

“Opening my eyes, I find myself reflected in a full-length mirror on the wall. I resemble some grotesque caricature of the human body, my skin jaundiced and swollen, a flaccid penis peeking out of an unkept crop of pubic hair. Overcome with disgust and humiliation, I let out a sob”

“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?” 

The depiction of the character and of Aiden’s self-loathing goes on and on for PAGES. Worst even, the next body he inhabits is that of a serial rapist. Although Aiden is horrified, he is nowhere near as bothered by it to the same extent as he was when he was inside Ravenourt. It can be argued that Aiden is merely reflecting what the rapist host himself feels (i.e. no shame) but then again, it goes back to a problematic, stereotypical, tired depiction of fatness as shameful.

Ultimately, this element of the novel overpowered the narrative to the extent I can’t recommend it.

Rating: 2


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    October 4, 2018 at 12:55 am

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  • Avis
    October 4, 2018 at 4:56 am

    I’ve been looking forward to your review of this one ever since you mentioned it on Twitter. I really wanted to enjoy this because the concept is so incredible. I found it really difficult to care about Aiden from the start, and then the way the narrative luxuriated in the fatphobia was too much for me.

  • Ana
    October 4, 2018 at 5:27 am

    I know, right? I nearly stopped reading during those chapter but I wanted to see it through. I kinda hoped Aiden would turn out to be a villain, but no, he was a hero through and through.

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  • Anna
    December 17, 2018 at 1:04 am

    I don’t think the author meant to fat shame. He only wanted to remind the reader from time to time why Ravencourt can’t dash around and be more productive at his task. Aiden as Ravencourt is actually one of the more likable characters/hosts, so I failed to notice any fat shaming or prejudice or stereotypes

  • Aiden
    June 17, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    If you give a book a 2 out of 10 because it spends an insignificant portion talking about a character being fat, you probably are a bit too close to the issue.

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  • Pat
    August 29, 2019 at 5:17 am

    I can’t agree re fat shaming. I was fat ( no longer) though not as fat as the character by far and felt loathsome, and self conscious, so sympathised. Just because you think it’s wrong to fatshame doesn’t make it better for those who are fat. The book itself was a reading group choice. It intrigued to start with but irritated half way through and I didn’t finish it, but Im not a ‘whodunit’ fan anyway so maybe that’s part of the problem.

  • Aureus
    November 17, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Fat shaming! Are you serious? I’m guessing your feelings are as fragile as ice. Seriously who are you trying to impress with that leftarded behavior? That’s not reviewing a book that’s being a pretentious prick who is probably not even fat. I’m fat, and I think it’s pathetic and ignorant of you to be upset on my behalf. Suggesting fat shaming is a negative quality in a book is not a review since as a general rule fiction authors are allowed to depict anything they want in their own stories and should not be subjugated by their “questionable” content but by the quality and complexity of their material. Fat shaming is for sorry losers and apologists. Not for good book reviewer‘s.

  • Elo
    December 13, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Hey Ana!
    I have finished the book recently, and I was intrigued by the many mentions and references to chess (the game)… Aiden’s last name being Bishop, him waking up in exaclty 8 hosts (there are 8 panws in a chess game), Ravencourt playing chess with Evelyn, the chess piece being passed around. Yet, I cannot find anyone who comments on this on reviews and analyses… any thoughts?

  • Tommaso
    January 10, 2020 at 4:29 am

    To base one’s review on an issue illustrated by a couple of chapters out of 60 doesn’t make sense and looks very inappropriate, considering it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot and it’s not a recurring theme. Moreover, I don’t think that we’re dealing with fat shaming at all here. Imagine being a person in good shape, and at some point you find yourself in a body of an overweight man which hinders very basic actions you have always taken for granted. Of course you would be complaining and hating on your own body – especially when you aren’t even able to get undressed and into the bath tub by yourself and you need the help of someone else, someone Aiden has just seen for the first time on top of that. Ravencourt is one of the most praised characters by Aiden for his sharp mind, he even wished to be back as him at some point.

  • Allie
    January 17, 2020 at 1:55 am

    Me, every month: ok gonna skip book of the month this time to catch up with my https://www.jacketsinn.com/ and stuff Also me: ohh look at book I’ve heard so much about and never got to reading!

  • Anne
    March 3, 2020 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Ana! I ran across your review after abandoning this book for just the critiques you mention. I think many of us don’t realize the hurtful messages we’ve internalized and I can’t claim to understand the author’s intentions, but . . . whew! It was a tough pill to swallow that so much visceral hate was directed toward Ravencourt and Jonathan Derby was merely “a rascal” based on his physical appearance. I wish the author had given a little more shape to the structure behind the world (it doesn’t sound like too many of my fundamental questions would have been answered), but it was definitely a vivid place.

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  • Collin White
    October 16, 2020 at 10:20 am

    What an intricately layered and amazing plot. I have read a lot of books, but I have never read anything like this. This book was recommended by a colleague from https://www.thejacketoutlet.com/ she said “If you haven’t read this one yet, please jump into this book blindly and savor every moment”. I think I owe her a huge thanks.

  • R
    March 19, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Thank you for pointing out the horrific fatphobia and the super fucking problematic fact that he jumps to a serial rapist the next day. I didn’t even finish the book because the author so clearly hates fat people, and doesn’t fully comprehend the atrocity of sexual assault. Do yourself a favor and skip this book

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