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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Winter 2018)

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message 1: by SRC Moderator (last edited Dec 01, 2018 04:25AM) (new)

SRC Moderator | 4997 comments Mod
This is the thread where you can submit reviews for the Best Review contest. The thread is open for submissions and will close at Midnight EST on February 16, 2019. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on February 28. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Spring Challenge.

To be eligible for this task opportunity you must have achieved at least 100 points on the Readerboard by midnight Eastern Time on February 15, 2019.

Just a reminder that each person can only submit one review - but you can make edits to your review up until the end. The review does not have to be any particular length and doesn't have to be a positive one (i.e. you can choose to review a book you didn't like).
Please include your Readerboard Name.

PLEASE DO NOT comment on people's reviews in this thread - this is for submissions only - you will be able to comment when voting begins.

SPOILER ALERT!- These reviews may include spoilers.

message 2: by Trish (last edited Jan 09, 2019 01:36AM) (new)

Trish (trishhartuk) | 2591 comments The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton
(US title: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle)

Reviewed by trishhartuk - five stars.

I’m not a great “big book” reader, but this was chosen for one of the PopSugar group discussions for 2019 and it sounded intriguing. Despite being a 500+ page book, the overall writing, and the author’s style of description were sufficiently tight (the exceedingly complicated plotting notwithstanding) and evocative that it kept me hooked. As such, apart from the first six chapters, which I read the evening before, I read the whole book in one sitting (the joy of working from home in the post-Christmas quiet period!).

Question is, can I review it without spoiling it, or even saying much beyond what is given away in the GR description?

Let’s start with the basics.

- It’s a murder mystery, after the fashion of Agatha Christie: the 1920s, a big country house (Blackheath House), the inevitable house party, and a disparate collection of guests, all of them flawed or just plain criminal, hiding something which will ultimately lead to the solution.

- It has an element of Groundhog Day, in that the hero, Aidan Bishop, is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again, until he figures out who murdered Evelyn.

- It focuses on eight of the guests/staff, in a variant on multiple points of view.

- It has a distinct Blake Crouch feel, for anyone who’s read either the Wayward Pines trilogy, or chose Dark Matter for the Group Read a couple of seasons ago.

- It just won the UK’s Costa First Novel prize for 2018 (and I’m planning to nominate it for the 2019 Hugo awards).

There are a lot of murder mysteries out there, both cozy and procedural, and its often hard to find one that stands out from the crowd, but Evelyn Hardcastle manages it. In the interview with the author at the back, he says that, from the age of ten, he knew he wanted to write an Agatha Christie-style mystery, but he couldn’t come up with a plot that she hadn’t already written, until the key elements that make Evelyn Hardcastle stand out came together fifteen-plus years after he first tried.

From the very first chapter, it’s obvious that the feel is much more thriller/procedural than the “cozy” setting might suggest. The POV character wakes up with no memory of who he is, or what he’s doing lying in a soaking wet forest, and from there it’s a case of trying to figure everything out before circumstances conspire against him (hence the Blake Crouch feel). He does get help along the way: from the mysterious “Plague Doctor”, who tries to point him in the right direction without giving too much away; and from a friendly maid in the house. He also meets apparent friends who end up being enemies, and vice versa.

The sense of threat starts fairly low key, but increases as the book continues, until, by the end, he’s fighting for his life and trying to find the solution before the clock runs out.

It’s a complicated book, there’s no denying it: there are a lot of characters, and it weaves together eight mutually referential, plot lines. But the author’s writing style and sense of description kept me interested, waiting for each new breadcrumb (when I’ve sometimes struggled with shorter, but similarly convoluted books, in the past), and the identity of the murderer was satisfyingly unexpected, while still just about fitting the “fair play” criterion. Plus, it ends with a feeling of redemption after the struggles Aidan has been through.

I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good, chunky murder mystery with a twist.

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