Oh my goodness! This book! I genuinely feel as though my brain is about to explode with all the questions that reading Stuart Turton’s brilliant debut novel has produced. This book is unlike any other I’ve read. I know you’ve all read it – why did it take me so long to get to it?!
If you’re looking for a coherent, incisive review, I’m afraid this is not going to be it. I can’t do that this time. I actually just want to climb to the top of a tall building and holler ‘READ IT!’. And then I want to race down and find anyone who has also read it, and grab them by the shoulders and force them to discuss it with me for hours.
Ok, breath. The basics – as the blurb tells us:
‘At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.
She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath…’
This is no simple Groundhog Day/Quantum Leap mash-up – this is so much darker a proposition, and the fact that Aiden learns to see himself in other ‘hosts’ at living through a repetition of the same day adds a devastatingly brilliant edge to the story. Turton’s ability to shift his narrator’s tone and focus so subtly each time makes his time-looping, character-jumping hero very convincing indeed. Seeing events from different perspectives in different chapters adds to the depth of perception and I kept wanting to make notes, desperate to solve the murder mystery too (I failed – it’s devilishly complex). The dilapidated country house, Blackheath, is itself a fascinating location, often seeming to be an elaborate stage set on which events unfold with a terrifying and claustrophobic inevitability.
As Aiden wakes in different bodies, some more useful to him than others, he learns to seek out a young woman called Anna. Who she is, and whether she can be trusted, is left in doubt. He also has to contend with portentous appearances from a sinister masked figure he calls The Plague Doctor. It becomes apparent early on that it is he who is pulling the strings. But it is the Footman, a vicious knife-wielding predator, whom Aiden must really fear. Slowly, the aptly-named Bishop begins to realise he’s part of a bigger game. ‘I can feel myself being slotted into place, a cog in a massive ticking clock, propelling a mechanism I’m too small to understand.’
It comes as no surprise that Turton took three months to plan out his fiendishly dense plot: ‘Post-it notes covered my walls and a huge timeline took over my desktop.’ The level of detail and cross-referencing in this novel is astounding and makes it genuinely exciting to read. READ IT!