Another day, another debate. This time, we’re going head-to-head over a very ‘different’ kind of book – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Here’s our thoughts… and yes, things did get a little bit heated during the discussion!
Firstly, here’s a quick summary of the book:
Aiden Bishop finds himself caught on loop, repeating a single day of a murder - the only difference being, he must complete each day as a different person, and solve the mystery before time runs out. He’s accompanied by a mysterious figure in a mask who is trying to help him, plus a woman known only as Anna; who seems to have more knowledge of Aiden’s previous existence than he does.
Sounds like a simple premise, right? Well, actually, this is an intricately plotted book, with the protagonist leaping backwards and forwards in time, in various different bodies. It’s a quintessential murder-mystery novel, with an updated, almost sci-fi twist.
Lucy: Well, well, well, Nick; here we are again for another debate; and I suspect this one will be quite an interesting one, as I liked this book more than you did.
Nick: Just for the record, there’s plenty about this book that I liked. But I did find it majorly confusing.
Lucy: I agree with you in some ways. But let’s start from the top, with the premise itself. What did you think?
Nick: Well, that’s what totally drew me to the book, as it sounded so clever. It was described as a mash-up between Quantum Leap, Agatha Christie and Groundhog Day – I mean, who could resist a description like that?
Lucy: And I think it delivered on that promise; it has the wonderful ‘whodunnit’ feel of a classic Agatha Christie, with this fresh, almost sci-fi feel to it. The setting of the house, the woods outside, I think it was all in-keeping with classic Poirot style scene-setting.
Nick: I’ll grant you that the Agatha Christie reference felt apt, but I’m not sure about the rest of it. It was a very cleverly plotted book though.
Lucy: The plotting was phenomenal – I don’t know how the author managed to pull it off. Each of the days spent in another body – they all wove into one another very artfully, I felt.
Nick: The whole concept of trying to solve the mystery in one body, then suddenly waking up in another person’s body; that was ingenious. Can’t fault that at all.
Lucy: And taking on their unique characters and attributes too, I thought that worked really well. Like when Aiden found himself in a fatter man’s body, and struggled with the limitations that imposed on him. Or when he was inside someone with a nasty temper, and had to fight to keep his cool.
Nick: That was effective, you’re right. Only thing I’d say is that he leapt between bodies way too much. If it’d just been linear; i.e. Day One in one person’s body, Day Two in the next, I could have handled that. But it jumped back and forth, and that’s when I started to get irritated.
Lucy: Oh dear, did it actually annoy you?
Nick: Yeah, a bit. Didn’t it annoy you?
Lucy: There were a few occasions where I was frustrated – I felt I’d just got to grips with him being in one character’s body, then he suddenly leapt over to another one.
Nick: It was flipping confusing!
Lucy: (laughing) Yes, it was a bit. But I could forgive the book for that, because it still compelled me to read on.
Nick: I was just about compelled to continue to the end, but I found it a slog. It was over 500 pages too – so it’s a weighty old book.
Lucy: It’s not surprising though, is it; I mean, the author had to get a lot of plot in there!
Nick: Yeah, but I felt some of the descriptions could have been cut right down. That’s just my personal opinion anyway; I know how you love your descriptive passages.
Lucy: Actually, I agree with you there. I felt it could have done with tighter editing, which would have pushed the action onwards with a bit more immediacy. Now, what about the characters themselves? I personally thought they were very well done, and one of the strongest aspects of the book. Some of them were quite repulsive, which made it all the gripping when Aiden has to inhabit their body!
Nick: Yeah, I liked the characters, but I felt there were some that we never really got to know. And I even had to get my notepad out on occasion, to try to keep track of them all.
Lucy: I didn’t feel like that at all; I felt they were mostly really well realised. The only one I felt short-changed by was Anna (who is his mysterious companion throughout the book). I liked her role in the end, I thought it was clever, but I desperately wanted to know more about her backstory.
Nick: Yes, totally – her backstory, which should have been pretty integral to it all, was a bit of a throwaway paragraph. A wasted opportunity, in my opinion.
Lucy: I agree with you. That for me was probably the main issue I had with the book. However, I really enjoyed the rest, so I was prepared to overlook it.
Nick: I wasn’t. I felt really cheated at the end, because I’d gone to such effort to slog my way through it, and it fell flat at the final hurdle. Sorry Luce, but that’s the way it is.
Lucy: (laughs) It wasn’t that bad!
Nick: Okay, I might be hamming it up a bit, but seriously, how could you not be disappointed by that ending?
Lucy: I just enjoyed the subtlety and complexity of the book as a whole.
Nick: (laughs) Fair enough. I did appreciate the whole ‘whodunnit’ feel, that’s always good fun, and it was done nicely in this book. But there just wasn’t quite enough for me to fall in love with, I’m afraid.
Lucy: What’s your score then, Nick?
Nick: Because I liked the mystery element and respected the idea, it’s a 3/5 stars from me. And you?
Lucy: I’d go with a solid 4/5 stars. I would have loved to have seen a more dynamic ending, but the plot itself was clever enough to keep me satisfied.