The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton Raven Books, £14.99, 505 pages High concept crime fiction indeed – Stuart Turton’s remarkable debut is something that the reader will not have encountered before, even though it’s a mélange of existing elements: a bizarre (but mesmerising) synthesis of Groundhog Day, the Agatha Christie country house mystery and the vintage British chiller Dead of Night. At a swanky weekend party, the novel’s narrator Aiden Bishop is obliged to repeat the same day endlessly until he can nail the murderer of the seductive heiress of the title and break a grim cycle. Turton transfixes our attention immediately by having Bishop – who starts each day with no memories of the past – awakening in a different host body among the visitors to Blackheath House, each with their own distinct personality. In fact, the above synopsis hardly does justice to the ingenuity and complexity of Turton’s intricate narrative. The real achievement here lies in the book’s quirky originality (familiar tropes aside).
Maigret Enjoys Himself by Georges Simenon (trans. David Watson) Penguin, £7.99, 169 pages Over the years, the standard of Belgium-born Simenon’s books featuring his doughty French copper Maigret was remarkably consistent. No easy task — Simenon was notably prolific, retaining through nearly all his novels the literary strain that elevated his work above most other police procedurals (Gide and Cocteau were admirers); more than most, Simenon is responsible for the high critical standing of crime novels today. In Maigret Enjoys Himself (newly translated by David Watson), the saturnine, pipe-smoking Inspector is supposed to be relaxing on holiday, but he becomes ineluctably caught up in the developments of his police colleague Janvier’s current, mystifying case and (needless to say) begins to intervene – whether his help is wanted or not. In the prodigious 75-book Maigret canon, this is a slight piece, more a jeu d’esprit than anything else, but it’s a book that demands to be read at a single sitting.