Review | The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Highly atmospheric and fiendishly clever, but missing something for me. 4/5 stars.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stu Turton book cover

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution 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, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night.

And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board

My take:

I was incredibly impressed by Turton’s debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, if for nothing more than the sheer amount of work that must have gone into keeping all the plot lines straight. So I was really looking forward to his new book and I’m sorry to say I didn’t find it quite as successful as Seven Deaths. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it at all, I just didn’t find it as pleasing. I’ve given both books 4 stars, but I think Seven Deaths was more 4.5 rounded down and The Devil and the Deep Water is more 3.5 rounded up (I’m aware this is a bit odd and possibly unfair, but I can’t review with hindsight!).

There is loads of great stuff to like in The Devil and the Deep Water. What I enjoyed most was the brilliant atmosphere. The ship is a great claustrophobic setting for mysterious shennanigans and felt really creepy and threatening at times.

I also liked the female characters who didn’t sit on their backsides and wait for anyone to save them. I’m not quite sure how historically accurate women having this much agency in the early 17th century – particularly onboard a ship – would have been, but I was happy to suspend my disbelief.

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