WInner: Best First Novel
The Costa Judges: ‘This ingenious, intriguing and highly original mindbender of a murder mystery gripped us all. We were all stunned that this exciting and accomplished novel, planned and plotted perfectly, is a debut. Fresh, enticing and completely unputdownable.’
Winner: Best Novel
Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the Booksellers Association, said: “From first time authors to literary giants, this year’s Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winners give an insight into bookseller’s and the public’s top books of the year. It’s hugely exciting to see such a large proportion of new writers on the list, showing just how much brilliant new writing talent readers have to enjoy.”
This is a fabulously dark and witty concept, executed with quite some panache by debut author Stuart Turton. The way in which the narrator gradually learns how to make use of each of his hosts’ unique abilities – charm, worldly connections, intelligence, discipline, and so on – is amusing enough, but it is the way in which he is forced to come to terms and even fight with the darker side of the characters he inhabits which makes the story quite memorable.
The price Turton pays for this is a loss of emotional engagement on the reader’s part. But as an intellectual thriller, the book can’t be faulted, and in the end, it’s the story that triumphs, with a series of last-minute revelations as dazzling as the finale of a fireworks show. I’m not sure it entirely makes sense, when all’s said and done – but who cares?
High-concept crime fiction indeed — Stuart Turton’s remarkable debut is something the reader will not have encountered before, even though it’s a mélange of existing elements: a bizarre (but mesmerising) synthesis of Groundhog Day, Agatha Christie country-house whodunnit and the vintage British chiller Dead of Night.
This is an astonishingly polished debut. Turton, a teacher and journalist, cites as his influences Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap, the popular television series of the 1990s. Perhaps so, but his novel is more original and takes more risks than either.
The reader needs their wits about them every bit as much as the hosts. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle may tie your brain in knots but it is an impressive feat with all loose threads satisfyingly tied by the end, making for an exhilarating, unsettling and invigoratingly original read.