Arts

Book reviews: The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle an utterly original thriller

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

BOOK OF THE WEEK

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is published in hardback by Raven Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £12.99). Available now

A MAN wakes terrified in a forest, with no memory of who he is, a glimpse of a woman chased through the trees, a gunshot and a single name on his lips: Anna. So begins The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle, the debut novel by freelance travel journalist Stuart Turton. What follows is an Agatha Christie yarn tumbling Through The Looking Glass, as our protagonist Aiden is forced to repeatedly live the day of a murder dressed up not to look like one. Each time he wakes in the body of a different guest at a country house party from hell, tasked with solving the murder to win his release. This utterly original thriller is brilliantly plotted and a real page-turner, with mind-bending twists and turns that build towards a satisfying crescendo of guilt and redemption.

9/10

Emily Beamont

The Melody by Jim Crace is published in hardback by Picador, priced £16.99 (ebook £5.99). Available now

FORMER journalist and award-winning writer Jim Crace specialises in waiting for inspiration. In this case, a trip to Chennai, India and the sight of shadowy creatures scavenging in rubbish bins formed the seeds of this tale. Crace says his stories spring from things that puzzle or trouble him, and he certainly gives the reader plenty to think about, from the gulf between rich and poor to the 'cleansing' of the natural environment. Alfred Busi is a recently widowed, retired singer who lives in his family home on the outskirts of a coastal town. The story begins with Busi trying to identify noises in his dark garden. Later, Busi is attacked by a wild creature that he is sure is a child. This is a tale of loneliness, fear of change and the difficulties of ageing and waning celebrity. The story is beautifully written and fabulously lyrical. In many ways, it's a simple tale, but there are rich layers of detail to enjoy.

9/10

Sue Barraclough

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

SYLVIE and Dan decide to shake up their marriage after a doctor tells them they are so healthy they could expect to spend another 60 years together. Cue some ill-judged and amusing attempts to surprise each other so the spark stays alive. But the real surprise is when Sylvie finds out the husband she thought she knew inside out has been hiding something from her for years. The revelation makes Sylvie question her whole life and look differently at herself, her family and friends. It's not as funny as her Shopaholic series but the usual light, easy reading you would expect from bestselling novelist Sophie Kinsella. The characters are too under developed to really come to life, so it's hard to feel truly involved in the story. And while there are a few twists towards the end, despite the title, there's little really surprising about this pleasant enough tale.

5/10

Beverley Rouse

NON-FICTION

Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through The World's Strangest Brains by Helen Thomson is published in hardback by John Murray, priced £16.99 (ebook £13.99). Available February 22

HELEN Thomson is a neuroscience graduate and award-winning science journalist. In this, her first book, she meets individuals with highly unusual brains in order to help us understand how the average brain works. Her examples are striking: there is Graham, who believed he was dead; doctor Joel who feels others' pain, and Matar, who thinks he turns into a tiger. However, by including both clear explanations of recent research and interviews with her subjects about their lived experience, Thomson shows how our own brains might try to make sense of the world in the same ways, with fun experiments to trick ourselves into hallucinating or even believing we have an alien limb.

7/10

Lucy Whetman

CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst is published in paperback by Bloomsbury Children's Books, priced £6.99. Available now

EMMELINE Pankhurst's descendant knows a lot of about female pioneers, and this sequel to 2016's Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is filled with 10 more splendid examples. This time, the names may not be as immediately identifiable as Amelia Earhart and Pankhurst's suffragette ancestor, but the simplified life stories of the Ancient Egyptian "female pharaoh" Hatshepsut and escaped slave Harriet Tubman are no less inspiring. Pankhurst's bright, looping layouts are illustrated with feel-good cartoons of the women, their text bubbles filled with perky encouragements to be brave and different. It's perfectly pitched at seven to 10-year-olds, enjoyable for them to read alone or with a parent and hits the double-whammy of being informative but not overwhelming.

10/10

Natalie Bowen

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