This book starts to get weird very early. An assemblage of people come to a grim old place nineteen years after the murder of a child. One of them wakes up outside, convinced that someone called Anna has been shot and that the murderer has pressed a compass upon him, murmuring “East.” He finds his way back to Blackheath but has complete amnesia. He discovers that he is a doctor called Sebastian Bell, and the compass has his initials on it. So far, so good.
Then he/we start reliving this day, but ... Bell finds that he’s inhabited by someone else, and throughout all the mayhem that follows, that someone else transfers into other guests who are radically different. There’s a fat old lord, an ageing lawyer, a mad artist etc. The point of this exercise is to discover who killed Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter of the house who’s just returned from Paris. A mysterious figure dressed as a Plague Doctor, complete with beaked porcelain mask wants to know. There is a malevolent footman about, whose aim seems to be to kill people.
It’s all very confusing at first, but once you accept the bizarre premise, it becomes strangely compelling, as the “someone” turns out to be Aiden Bishop. The author does a really good job of keeping us on the edge of our seats as the story unfolds. On the way, moral questions about what a person will do to achieve a desired result crop up. As Aiden transfers into other bodies to live the same day over again, gaining deeper knowledge each time, the question becomes whether an evil person can rehabilitate and whether trust is the right response.
It’s devilishly clever. Top marks for plotting. But in the gloomy atmosphere where terrible things happen, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
This book blew my mind. It is utterly original and unique. I couldn't get it out of my head for days afterwards (Sophie Hannah, bestselling author)
A brilliantly original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent: Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day, by way of Agatha Christie