The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

9781408889541Agatha Christie meets Quantum Leap in Stuart Turton’s high-concept, propulsive murder mystery.

A man with no memory wakes terrified in a forest. He glimpses a woman chased through the trees, her name on his lips: Anna. Then a gunshot rings out. And The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle begins.

As far as taglines go, Stuart Turton’s debut mystery novel has a great one: “Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie”. Which is so, so much better than the usual “Thriller of the Year” line that gets used constantly, and conjures, at best, an eye roll; probably not the emotional response marketing departments are hoping for. Not that a great tagline maketh a great book, but damn, you’ll pique my interest, and at the very least entice me to sample the opening chapters.

And the opening chapters got me. They got me good.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle needs to be read in a spoiler-free bubble. The less you know about its labyrinthine plot the better. It is an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery that takes place in the classic setting of the 1920s country house — Blackheath — with a sensational twist: our protagonist will re-live the same day, through the eyes eight separate individuals, until he identifies the killer. Every morning he wakes up in a different body, or host, with memories of his experiences in the previous hosts — and the personalities of his hosts battling for supremacy within his mind — but if he doesn’t discern the killer by the end of day eight, he’ll return to day one, and be forced to re-live the cycle, again and again; a cruel kind of purgatory.

The plot is complicated, myriad of clues laced throughout the narrative. Meticulously plotted and stylishly written, this is a page-turner with a distinct twist and surprises right up to the very end. It is a mystery novel on an epic scale, and you’ll be hard-pressed to read a more tightly-constructed, better-plotted thriller this year.

 

ISBN-10: 1408889544
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 528
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 8-Feb-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

MoonriseSarah Crossan’s Moonrise is a poignant, resonant and heart-wrenching exploration of our powerlessness against the justice system, and the emotional toll incarceration, and an impending death sentence, has on the offender and their family. The story is sad, but never overly sentimental, and truly shines when Crossan focuses on the lasting impact of individual moments. The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious young adult novel.

The Moon brothers — Joe and Ed — were inseparable in their youth, the latter being the troublesome and cheekier older of the two, who looked after his sibling as best he could when nobody else would. But Ed always had a wild streak — honed perhaps by a dysfunctional home life —  and a determination to escape the life he knew. One day, he did; but things did not work out as planned. When Moonrise opens, we learn that Ed is on death row for killing a police officer, and Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years. When Ed’s execution date is formalised, Joe makes the trip to Texas, hoping that there’s still time to save him, to repeal his fate; and more than anything, wanting to reconnect after so many years apart, and salvage their relationship.

Moonrise is told in verse, which makes the pages fly, its lyrical paragraphs and sentences seamlessly melding together into something beautiful. This is a novel that deftly explores the legitimacy of the death penalty without ever threatening to become a dissertation on the subject. More than anything else, however, it is a book about acceptance; acquiescing to your fate, even when it’s unfair, even when it’s unreasonably harsh. It’s about cherishing the time we have with our loved ones, and living with a willingness to open our hearts.

Moonrise is emotionally tumultuous, utterly gripping and satisfying. It will break your heart, and it will fortify it. It is a thought-provoking meditation on crime and punishment, exquisitely detailing the raw emotions on both sides of the prison cell. It’s about the before and the after, and fighting against the odds. It’s a cruel story, beautifully told. And it is absolutely one of my favourite books of the year.

ISBN: 9781408878439
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 7-Sep-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann

Letters to a Young WriterIn my early twenties I churned through writer’s manuals and magazines, using their words of wisdom to fuel my creative fire. Immediately noticeable was the disparity of the advice offered, particularly when it came to process: some said it was mandatory to know your ending; others said that limited the scope of your story. Some said avoid prologues; others said they could be quite useful. I heeded some advice, ignored others. As I write this, I haven’t published a novel, which suggests I took a wrong turn somewhere down the track. Doesn’t matter: a writer can always re-route, find a new direction, start again. Resilience is key. If imagination and determination is the only limit, there’s no need to fear failure. I’ve got both in spades.

Colum McCann points out in his introduction to Letters to a Young Writer, borrowing words from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: “Nobody can advise and help you… there is only one way. Go into yourself.” Ultimately, McCann says, it boils down to “the strike of the word upon the page, not to mention the strike thereafter, and the strike after that.” We should listen to successful writers, absolutely; accept their advice, value their input. But our writing is our own; there’s not one path to success, and failure is only assured if we don’t spend time in front of the keyboard, or with pen in hand, creating; actually doing the writing.

The most powerful paragraph in McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer — for me, at least — is when he says:

“The most destructive force in your life is liable to be the unwritten story. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer. You’re avoiding the competition of yourself. Simple logic, but it’s a kick in the chest when the page is empty. Too much white space is not a good thing. Empty is empty. And empty haunts.”

It’s these gems that make the book such a powerful resource. Not necessarily the practical advice — which is also included — but rather the philosophical enlightenment. Letters to a Young Writer is a book I’ll keep nestled in my shelf forever; there to spark me into life, ignite my creative fire whenever it’s waning. I rushed through it during my first read, and took my time with the second, savouring McCann’s intimacy with his reader, highlighting the segments that resonated most. It’s a must-have for any writer in your life.

ISBN: 9781408885031
Format: Hardback (216mm x 135mm x mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 4-May-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom