Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

evelynOr: just seven, depending on which edition you’re reading. Apparently the title had to be changed for the U.S. version because of … reasons. I don’t know. Google it if you really care.

I digested this as an audiobook. It was about 17 or 18 hours long, which is long for an audiobook. For comparison, the David Sedaris book I’m listening to now is only five hours long. A Janet Evanovich novel is about 3 1/2 hours long. So, this is a LONG book.

But, if you get into it, like I did, you’ll be wishing for more! I could have listened to this story unfold for at least 3-4 more hours. Although, at times, I was so hungry for a resolution, it was like, HURRY UP ALREADY.

I tried to explain this book to my mom. She’s 72. She doesn’t do well with out-of-sequence storytelling so I wasn’t sure if this would be her thing or not. But, here’s what I told her: it’s a mystery, there’s this girl who gets murdered and there’s this guy who needs to figure out who did it … and then I realized, I’m underselling this. I was trying to oversimplify for my mom’s sake, but that description pretty much sounds like ANY murder mystery. And this one is atypical. So here’s the real deal.

This guy wakes up in the midst of being chased through the woods. Like, he comes to the realization that he’s being pursued, but he has no flippin’ clue who he is. He just remembers the name Anna, and knows she’s in danger. He hears a gunshot, assumes it’s Anna, and then someone who he assumes is the killer approaches from behind and presses a compass into his hand and whispers the direction “east.”

Is this an old man with Alzheimers? A dream? What’s going on here? Slowly the pieces come together and this man learns who he is, although he has zero recollection of his life before coming to Blackheath, a large, high-society family home (like I’m picturing Downton Abbey) for a party to welcome Evelyn Hardcastle back home. As a reader I started to become invested in this character, Sebastian Bell, and want to figure out what’s going on with Anna, the murder, etc. Except, if you recall, the title of the book isn’t “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Anna.” So what does Anna have to do with anything?

And then a chapter begins and it’s from a totally different perspective, but of the same event. Except this person now has Sebastian Bell’s memories as well as a new confusion about what is happening to them.

Are you intrigued yet?

Figuring out what’s going on is part of the fun of this book, so saying too much more will give it away. This is the kind of book where I want to go back and read or listen to it again so I can notice details I missed the first time around. If this sounds at all interesting, I highly encourage you to try it out, with the understanding that it’s going to take you a while to get through. Reading the book itself might be a bit easier than the audio version because you could flip back to the previous parts and see if you can figure out what’s going on. I like it too, because I was surprised by the ending. I like to think that I can outsmart the author and discover the murderer before they reveal who it is, but I was fooled until the very end.

Anyway, long review for a long book, but bottom line: worth your time.

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