The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (US)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (UK)
By Stuart Turton
Sourcebooks Landmark (US), Bloomsbury Raven (UK), 2018
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a science fiction/fantasy mystery, leaning hard on the mystery and leaving the SF/F vague enough that we are never quite sure which it is. It is also gothic masterpiece, and perfect reading for the days leading up to Halloween.
I will not tell you too much of the plot, characters, or theme, as spoilers are bad, and especially bad in this case. However, this is the tale of a murder that may or may not have happened, in a large, isolated country house with more suspects than Agatha Christie could shake a stick at. It starts on a cold, damp morning when an amnesic man stumbles out of the woods and reports that he has just seen a woman murdered... out there, somewhere. He is quickly bundled into the crumbling mansion, shown to a room, and told that maybe the constabulary needn't be called in just yet...
And from there it develops. Something is going on, and it is both extraordinarily complex and clearly preternatural. There are a dozen different plots that range from merely corrupt to vicious, and some of these plots are more than worldly. Evil stalks the woods (and the house), but it is nearly impossible to tell who is good, who is evil, and who is real. And that's all I'm willing to say.
You should read this book. It's a bit poetic in its language, a bit dark, and a bit longer than the average novel (430 pages, in my edition), but mostly it's a good spooky mystery with an interesting premise that's given free range to play out fully. It reminds me of a grown-up version of Camp So-And-So, a slightly (very slightly) lighter novel in the style of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, or The Westing Game's cranky great-great uncle -- the one that was in the war, and wasn't quite right when he came back. Unless you have an allergy to non-linear plots, mysterious masked strangers, or murder mysteries, you should give this book a go; it's one of the best books I've read this year.