Name: The Devil and the Dark Water
Author: Stuart Turton
Number of Pages: 498 (ebook)
Published: October 6th 2020 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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. Anyone could be to blame. Even a demon.And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.
There’s trouble at sea in the latest novel from Stuart Turton. After enjoying The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so much I had high hopes for this book and it certainly didn’t disappoint with a marvellous blend of murder mystery, eerie and possible supernatural goings-on, and intrigue amongst a varied group of people drawn together within the confines of a ship bound for a long voyage back to Amsterdam. When the ship is threatened before the journey even begins, it sets the tone for what is the come…
I’m not quite sure where to begin as there are many things that made this a gripping read.
It is a great mystery with a slightly claustrophobic air as all those people board the ship bound for Amsterdam. It’s wonderfully eerie as rumours abound that some kind of demon going by the name of Old Tom is actually what threatens the voyage. The air of malevolence and threat from this apparent demon – the presence of a shadowy figure glimpsed at portholes and in darkened corridors, whispers that it may be able to possess people and therefore walk undetected – all adds to the air of suspense and paranoia among the passengers and crew, many of whom are convinced that something evil is onboard the Saardam.
Amongst a memorable cast of characters are Samuel Pipps, Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel.
Pipps is a famous detective, perfect to get to the bottom of the strange happenings, but on this occasion he’s also a prisoner, confined to a darkened hole of a cell within the depths of the Saardam, awaiting his fate as he’s transported back to Amsterdam to face trial for an alleged crime.
Arent is a famous solider, and protector and companion to Sammy Pipps. He reluctantly comes to the fore to pursue leads that Pipps himself is unable to, having previously worked on cases with the great detective. He searches for the truth whilst seeking out his friend and mentor for advice whenever he can, doubting his own abilities after past experiences.
Sara is the wife of the Governer General. Having witnessed the initial threat to the voyage she’s reluctant to endure the journey and put her daughter at risk, but unable to convince her husband not to travel she immerses herself fully in the mystery, trying to find answers whilst exploring parts of the ship she really shouldn’t be venturing to. She’s driven by an urge to protect her daughter and never shies away from potential danger. Sara and Arent Hayes are drawn together despite being very different.
There are some wonderfully written moments which I was going to describe but it’s better to discover them in the reading of the story, a story that really keeps you guessing. Is there anything to this talk of Old Tom, or is it being magnified by a group of scared and superstitious people adrift and under threat from some unknown source?
I found myself trying to anticipate whether there was a human element, someone with a vendetta or reason to cause all this trouble, or whether it’s all so extraordinary that there’s no other explanation than something supernatural, and if that’s the case then how on earth will the passengers of the Saardam survive their journey?
I tried to guess for a while before the narrative just grabbed me and I sat back and went along for the ride. The final third of the novel was all action, as the situation gradually became clear, and I couldn’t tear myself away from needing just one more chapter to discover what would happen next.
I loved The Devil and the Dark Water. A group of people stranded at sea, confined together, the crew awash with colourful characters, from the rich and powerful to the roughest sailors, all at the mercy of someone or something, the ambiguity of the threat, the eeriness, the fact that there is such a mix of people to suspect of the various crimes and many possible reasons for someone to want vengeance, the potential that it’s something supernatural after all, it all made for an exciting read.