Books

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

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This is a review with spoilers. If you want my non-spoiler review, please go to Goodreads here

This book, despite what is in this review, I gave five stars simply because this is the first book in a while where I have been disappointed that it’s over. There are many books where I enjoy the journey of the reading, where I finish the book and I’m sad it’s over because it’s an enjoyable book and I liked it, but this was different. I remember listening to it (because I got it on audiobook before I received an ARC from NetGalley) and being so enthralled by the mystery unfolding in front of my eyes. As Aiden went through the day as a new host, you received more and more clues about what had happened previously in the book. It is one of those books where I wished it had been a physical book so I could flip back and forth. The problem is with these kinds of books is that you are never really able to relive that experience again. If I go back and reread this book, or maybe I should say when I reread it, I will always know how it ended and that will colour my perception of the book, though I think physically reading it would be different to listening to it.

Now this is a spoilery review because I wanted to talk about the ending as well, though first I will start off with the rest of the book. I was amazed at the plot this book, though partly it was at the amount of work which must have gone into this plot. The little details as Aiden changed hosts and days, as his knowledge base grew and grew, were amazing, especially things like why this line in the letter was added or how Aiden obtained that key and why. Him being in different bodies meant he had to contend with his host’s whims and desires as he grew closer to the deadlines and that was fascinating to see the contrast between each man Aiden was in. None of them were particularly good men but they all helped Aiden in solving the mystery in some small way. I especially liked seeing the details of their host’s lives like with Derby and Rashton.

The slow reveal of Anna and the footman, and wow, what a villain the footman was. More than a little terrifying and I sort of want to see this made into a TV show just so I can see who would play him. He was so evil and then to find out he was working for someone else who allowed him to glorify in his bloodlust was a twist and a half. I was wondering what the footman was getting out of murdering all of Aiden’s hosts, since he had to try and figure out the mystery as well, but that question about his motivation was more than answered. To have the footman being just one of Daniel’s henchman, especially the Daniel we had all come to know as a friend and ally was a twist I didn’t see coming. And the plague doctor too! Such a mysterious character where you’re not entirely sure of what his purposes are, whether benevolent or malevolent.

Aiden himself was an interesting character because he was both himself and not himself, considering he didn’t have his body, his mind or his memories to help guide him. I loved seeing how he adjusted to each different host and what was the pros and cons of each host. I loved seeing how he adjusted to each new host but also to the new plot that was unfolding in front of him. It was interesting to see all the discussion about what kind of person you would be without your memories and when you think no one is looking. Blackheath was there to rehabilitate prisoners (though it didn’t seem to be doing that good a job considering their 50% success rate) and they did this by taking all your memories away and see what you would do as the person you are. I thought it was a little unfair about Aiden getting more than one host but then it made sense later on when you heard about why this was. The world unfolding around you was amazing and I had a strange fondness for Blackheath, despite how much Aiden disliked it.

Then we come to the ending and that is where I veer a little on my view of this book. The book ends with Aiden and Anna leaving together, running away from the powers that be who sent them both there in the first place and I wasn’t sure whether I was particularly fond of this ending. The problem is with a book like this is I felt like there was no possible ending which would live up to the rest of the book. As I was listening to it, I was thinking the ending was going to have to be something amazing in order to live up to this intricate plot and the complex characters. And while the ending was complex, I don’t think it quite suited the rest of the book to me. I’m fine with unanswered questions at the end of my books, not everything is going to get neatly wrapped up in the end but there were so many with this book. What does Anna think of all this? Does she want to recover her memories? Will she even have a choice? What did Daniel do that was so awful? Where on Earth did Silver Tear come from and why weren’t we told about her sooner? Up until the very end, this was very much a murder mystery with a little groundhog day style weirdness going on but then it turned into a fantasy/sci-fi/thriller thing and I’m not entirely sure I was the biggest fan of this.

If this book was a series book where I was going to find out more about the world in the next book, I would have been happier with that ending I think, but unfortunately, I am left with all these unanswered questions and no chance of any of them being given answers.

Another reason why I was dissatisfied with the ending was what happened with Daniel and Anna. Now, while I was surprised at the revelation about Daniel not being a future host, I didn’t particularly like the reveal of Anna being an ally. I think I would have actually preferred it if Anna had remained a slightly amoral mystery where she helps Aiden but she takes off on her own because she wants to figure everything out. I quite liked the whole Aiden not being able to trust anyone thing, which is probably why I didn’t completely warm up to Daniel when Aiden thought him his future self and why I wasn’t hundred percent surprised he was the villain, especially after his talk about host having a soul as ‘black as pitch’. I wish the story had remained three characters facing off against each other rather than Anna and Aiden teaming up. The plague doctor was interesting simply because you didn’t know his motivations or whose side he was on. I never really doubted Anna would come through simply because what Aiden was feeling towards her. The whole Aiden trusts Anna, the trust gets shaken and then Aiden gets proven right to trust her felt a little too pat for me. I’m probably completely contradicting myself here but this book leaves me with a lot of things to feel and I think I could read an even longer review than this one.

So I’m going to give this book five stars but with caveats. This isn’t a completely five star read for me in terms of actual content but the way it made me feel is definitely five stars.

 

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