Title: The Devil and the Dark Water
Author: Stuart Turton
Published: October 6th, 2020 (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Synopsis: It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.
But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered.
And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.
Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?
With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.
The year is 1634 and the merchant vessel, Saardam, prepares to sail for Amsterdam. Aboard the ship are a number of passengers, amongst them, the famous detective Samuel Pipps who is set to be executed on arrival for crimes unknown. His faithful bodyguard, Arent Hayes, is determined to prove him innocent. Even ordinarily, this 8 month journey would be a perilous one, with the threat of pirates and storms, but this one seems jinxed even before the voyage begins, when a leper seemingly places a curse on the ship and bursts into flames on the dock. Things don’t get any better once out at sea as mysterious occurrences haunt the ship and its passengers. With the rumour spreading that there is a demon on board, it’s up to Arent to solve this mystery.
After reading The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle earlier this year, this was almost an instant addition to my TBR and I seem to have developed a taste for paranormal mysteries. From the very first page, this is a fascinating read, laying out an array of questions even before the ship has left port. The build up is a little slow but it does eventually pick up and I liked how the story constantly kept me guessing. I also really liked the writing style in this one. It was quite a relief to see that this was a linear plotline. While I did enjoy Evelyn Hardcastle, the story was nearly exhausting to keep track of, and the way this mystery unfolded was much easier to read.
Aboard the Saardam is an interesting mix of people, from Governor General accompanied by his wife and his mistress to a witch-finder and his apprentice, to sailors with shady pasts – and everyone has their own secrets and vendettas. The story takes on a bit of a Sherlock feel as Arent teams up with the Governor’s wife Sara to get to the bottom of things with Pipps consulting from his cell, which made it a fun read. A ship really is a great setting for a mystery – it gives things a wonderfully creepy feel. Of course, one of the most interesting questions to ponder throughout the book is if the threat really is of a supernatural nature, or if it is just someone playing on the superstitious beliefs of those on board.
I did feel, however, that the conversation between the characters sounded far too modern. To be honest, not much about the book felt historical at all, but the majority of it was overshadowed by the mystery itself. The pacing also did begin to drag a little around the middle as Arent and Sara investigate and there was quite a bit of filler, in my opinion – the book need not have been nearly so long.
The story was very well put together and I didn’t see that big twist coming at all! Overall, The Devil and the Dark Water was an intriguing read, and I quite enjoyed the layers of surprises it had. I would definitely recommend this book for any mystery fans, and if you enjoyed the author’s previous book, you’re sure to enjoy this one even more.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!