How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home? – Stuart Turton.
There is a story about buying this book for a book club, turning up to the pub and ordering a gin before realising that the session had been cancelled that day. Lack of WiFi is the reason I had no idea, but I’m glad I read this book: completely and utterly. It is one of those books that everyone is talking about; it’s won a couple of awards, it is mentioned on Instagram feeds and in YouTube videos, and it is chosen as the book to read for book club. I had heard the title fluttering in the wind before I picked it up, but I thought it was a completely different story and so I was surprised to read the blurb. It was a good surprise, the kind that has you itching to turn to the very first page and get started. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will make you want to keep on turning the pages until the very end, and then even more after that. I already want to know if Stuart Turton is planning on writing something similar, but I really don’t think it would be as good as this incredible, outstanding, jaw-dropping debut.
A man wakes up in a stranger’s body. He has no recollection of himself, of his true being, or why or how he came to be there in the first place. All he knows is he is screaming the name “Anna” and he is convinced she has been murdered after hearing her scream. He is in the middle of the woods in the dark, so it must be night time, and he stumbles towards a mansion after the murderer presses a compass in his trembling hand, giving him the direction “East”.
I don’t want to say much more than that about the plot. It is a book that you must go into without knowing anything about it. Even the blurb on the back is minuscule to lure the reader into the depths of the pages, full of curiosity and edged thrill. It is a fascinating read, one that will grip you as you wonder a) how on earth did anybody come up with such a twisted murder investigation? b) how could anybody think of this concept, let alone write it – it boggles the mind just to read it and c) how has the world of crime fiction coped without Stuart Turton on their bookshelves before now?
The plot is complex. That is to say the least. Actually, the plot is simple, but the execution of the story is complex. There are twists at every corner, surprises at every hurdle. You think you know what is happening and suddenly a character does something, or knows something, irrevocably insane. Stuart Turton must be an absolutely patient man to write such characters with such precision. Each one is completely different to the other, with their own mannerisms, their own plights, their own way of understanding, or dealing with the situation that stands before them. I have wondered since which one I am most like – I cannot come up with the answer because most of them have outstanding qualities mingled with terrible ones. Even the cunning have a way of prickling your skin unexpectedly as they push the case in the right direction.
As for the mansion itself, the place where this Cluedo mystery unfolds… it is beautiful, yet haunting: the perfect setting. It is coming apart at the seams, holding itself together at the cracks. The woods and the lake are dark, mysterious, as they hold their own ghosts from the past that blend together with the sophisticated murder that captures the entirety of the mansion, over and over until the truth sets them free.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is THE book that you need to read this year, especially if you are obsessed with mind-boggling twists, phenomenal characters and extraordinary writing.
Have you read Stuart Turton’s debut yet?
Love, Faye xo