Zoë Marriott's Reviews > The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
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really liked it

This is a very familiar premise - if you're a big fanfic reader, as I am. The Groundhog Day story has become a classic over on A03. In this story it seems to be an excuse to cycle through and (in some cases) examine lots of Agatha Christie style country-house-murder cliches while at the same time giving you a much fresher and more intriguing mystery to chew on: why is the (initially) Unnamed Narrator being forced to relive this day over and over again in all these different guises?

I waded slightly painfully through the first few chapters but found that once the Bell host had met Evelyn, things picked right up and I sprinted through it. There's a lot of finely observed compassion for some fairly unlikeable souls in this book, which makes me like it - and an appropriately condemning attitude for those who are not merely unlikeable, but actually unforgiveable. I do think the writer may have missed a trick by telling us so early on that this eight-hosts-one-day cycle had happened thousands of times before. It took away something of the tension that I think we were supposed to feel about the MC running out of time. And there were times when I was left really confused because something seemed so obvious to me, but the narrator was apparently completely oblivious despite having just narrated all the facts to us, and it left me wondering if I'd missed something (I hadn't - the narrator just never twigged until it was too late).

But I found it all pretty compelling and enjoyable right up until the point where the Cardinal Rule of Groundhog Day stories was broken, at the end. What is this rule? Well, in a story with this trope, when it comes to how the characters ended up in this pickle, you either lean into the SF elements and explain thoroughly (oh! The hero fell into a quantum tunneller which projected him into the consciousness of others who'd been loaded into the machine before, using probability matrixes to determine various outcomes, and he's really been in a coma all along? Fine, carry on) or you do what the original movie did and *don't explain*, leaving the reader to speculate that it was fate, or purgatory, or history correcting itself - but the real explanation was the lessons we learned along the way (cue swelling violin music).

What you shouldn't do is what Turton does here, which is kind of half-ass it both ways and then be inconsistent about it. Either we've time-travelled or we haven't. Either this entire place is 'shadows on the wall' or it isn't. How can the two mcs escape into the woods of Blackheath at the end if there IS no Blackheath? If it's all a projection that was created from the minds of the prisoners, how could each person that the narrator occupied have their own inner life? If that inner life was programmed in then how could the makers not know how the situation played out and who the real killers were? Why are these apparently incredibly advanced people using TIME TRAVEL and AIs *this advanced* merely to torment prisoners using hokey Agatha Christie scenarios? Are the plague doctors getting mountains of overtime for all these (literal) centuries of 24-7 supervision?


Anyway. I give it four stars because it got me through a very, very boring and slightly uncomfortable afternoon, and has left me thinking I will pick up the author's next. Just don't engage your brain too much there at the end.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 12, 2020 – Finished Reading
July 13, 2020 – Shelved

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message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Gordon Have you read Someone Like Me, by M. C. Carey? It is Way Too Full of Stuff, but interesting. Spoiler: the plot turns on a mechanism that’s part Groundhog Day and part multiverse/alternate timelines, and one character slips through multiple versions of her marriage to - and death at the hands of - an abusive man, trying to find a way not to die.

Zoë Marriott Barbara wrote: "Have you read Someone Like Me, by M. C. Carey? It is Way Too Full of Stuff, but interesting. Spoiler: the plot turns on a mechanism that’s part Groundhog Day and part multiverse/alternate timelines..."

No, I haven't, but that sounds very interesting - I'll add it to my list, B., thank you! x

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