Paige Stegina | A&E Editor
Stuart Turton’s novel, The Seven ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was released in 2018. It won the Best First Novel Prize, as well as reaching the top of The Saturday Times Bestseller list. The novel begins with Sebastian Bell waking up a forest, calling for a woman named Anna and seemingly has witnessed her death with the gunshot that follows. He quickly realizes that he has no memory, not even of own name. Over the course of the day, he is introduced to the complexities of Blackheath Manor and the Hardcastles, the hosts of a party held on the anniversary of a tragedy decades before. He is told that Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter recently returned from Paris, will be murdered that night. It is his task to discover the murderer. He will have eight different hosts, each day waking up in a new person, and will need to use their characteristics to solve the mysterious happenings of Blackheath Manor.
Turton elevates the traditional expectations of the murder mystery genre by including science fiction elements throughout the story. The story embraces the complexities of this combination. Even though body snatching is not a typical element of a murder mystery, it pairs well with the concept. Through the mindset and personality of each host of the main character, Aiden Bishop, he is able to add to his knowledge of the murder and work towards his escape. One of the more interesting concepts of the novel that could be developed in potential future novels would be the effects of Aiden's hosts on his personality and how each one changes and influences his mindset. Although it is through these different hosts that he is able to piece together the mystery, the fundamental values and personality traits of each host blend with Aiden’s personality. Even if it is a murder mystery, the complexity of the story prevents the reader from solving the murder before the final reveal. Even though this may deter some readers, it is a mystery that brings the reader along with the main character in his confusion as he attempts to obtain evidence while also discover why he is there and how to escape from the purgatory of Blackheath.
Overall, the novel brings the reader on a true adventure from beginning to end. Although the complexity of the story can occasionally take away from the plot and characters, the novel is strong in it’s development of a truly unique murder mystery. The rights of the novel were obtained by Netflix, but they cancelled the production of the series. However, the novel gives much that could be expanded upon in either a prequel or sequel, either with the established characters or in the world in which the story takes place.