Book notes - The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

🧠 Thoughts

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle first grabbed my attention when my friend quoted the opening paragraph.

I forget everything between footsteps.

"Anna!" I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise.

My mind has gone blank. I don't know who Anna is or why I'm calling her name. I don't even know how I got here. I'm standing in a forest, shielding my eyes from the spitting rain. My heart's thumping, I reek of sweat, and my legs are shaking. I must have been running, but I can't remember why.

It instantly made me want to read it. Although amnesia can be a gimmick, in this opening paragraph, we immediately get a sense of the problem that will be tackled in the book.

The premise is that you are Aiden, who has seven days to solve a murder. But as each day passes, he inhabits seven different people's bodies. Oh, and you live the same day over and over. It's like a combination of the bourne identity, groundhog day, and an episode of CSI all rolled into one.

After my friend generously loaned it to me, I got right in. But as I trudged to page 30, I found it quite a slog. My main gripe was that the story needed to explain itself earlier. For example, it only explains what Aiden's motivations are in this story much later. And the pacing of how the complexity evolves is like a hockey stick graph - not much in the beginning, but then it ramps up hugely.

The entire first half was a trial. Despite this, it's clear that the author had a wall of post-its and a ball of yarn to organise the plot. It's cleverly woven together to create a rich tapestry of a story. Full of twists and turns right to the end. The second half was much more fast-paced and went from a book I didn't want to pick up to a book I was glued to.

The writing throughout is very well done. The challenge of inhabiting different people is not one to be sniffed at. There is an entirely different personality and way of looking at the world. And the writing perfectly conveys that feeling of being an alien in someone else's body. Almost as if the book takes place just behind the eyes of the body you are in. Standing at 525 pages, the author does a great job of balancing moving the story forward whilst capturing small details.

In my eyes, it was an excellent fiction novel. I could get lost in an engaging story and have a changed worldview after reading it.

🪄 Actionable Takeaways

  1. Our lived experience shapes our personality.
  2. We have the autonomy to change the future despite our past.
  3. "Another set of eyes" can provide new perspectives. It is important to listen to those different voices and seek them out.
  4. A good mystery is a lot like an onion with many layers and often conflicting motives
  5. Many people mask in public.
  6. Secrets often lead to more secrets or even lies.
  7. Judging a situation at face value can provide an inaccurate picture of events.
  8. Multiple competing personalities is a great plot device.
  9. Consider the people you are with now, and don't judge them based on their past.
  10. Strive to be your true self in public and private.

💬 Favourite Quotes

If this isn't hell, the devil is surely taking.

We are never more ourselves than when we think people aren't watching

Nothing like a mask to reveal one's true nature

Every man is in a cage of his own making

Watchful like a deer in the woods that's just heard a branch snap

Their memories crowd the edges of my mind, the weight of them almost too much to bear.

So many memories and secrets, so many burdens. Every life has such weight. I don't know how anybody Carrie's even one.