On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the stunning new novel by Stuart Turton, The Devil and the Dark Water.
An impossible murder
A remarkable detective duo
A demon who may or may not exist
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.
I was a huge fan of Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, so I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with next. As I was reading his latest book, The Devil and the Dark Water, it put me in my mind of both, Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles and Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s quite a long book, but don’t let that put you off, I thought the writing was highly addictive, and I flew through it. I finished it much quicker than I thought I would.
A ship named the Saardam is about to set sail on an arduous seven-month voyage for Amsterdam from Batavia. For some of the passengers, they are put up in luxury cabins, but the majority are staying in cramped and horrific conditions. But even before the voyage begins, there are rumours of a demon, known as ‘Old Tom.’ It is believed that this demon is already on board the ship. There are some who are desperate to make sure that this ship doesn’t sail. Right from the beginning, Stuart Turton creates a real sense of mystery and atmosphere. Is there really such a thing as ‘Old Tom?’ Or is this just the minds of some of the passengers going into overdrive? But it is clear to some that this ship will never reach its destination and danger awaits everyone on board. Soon mysterious things begin to happen, strange symbols start to appear, animals are slaughtered, and then a body is found. That makes everyone on this ship a suspect, and it also means that everyone else is in danger until they are caught.
Throughout the book, the pace never lets up. Stuart Turton has created a cast of characters who pull you into the story. They are all very different, and you get a real sense of palpable fear among them on board the ship. This is particularly when rumours about ‘Old Tom’ begin to swirl. It makes for some gripping reading. I began to wonder just how the passengers were going to react as the tension between them begins to grow. This is especially when they all begin to suspect each other of harbouring ‘Old Tom,’ and there are calls for executions. It appears to be the only way of making sure that ‘Old Tom,’ is vanquished once and for all.
Also onboard the ship is the world’s most famous detective, Samuel Pipps. However, he is incarcerated in chains when he first boards the ship. So when the strange happenings begin to occur on the Saardam, it is his assistant, Arent Hayes who has to do the investigating. This is what reminded me of the friendship between Watson and Sherlock Holmes as I was reading.
This book will definitely take you on a wild ride. I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for something original and totally unique, then this is the book for you. It is a read that you can purely escape in to. Stuart Turton is a master storyteller and plotter, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.
Publisher: Raven Books
Publication date: 1st October 2020
Print length: 576 pages
The Devil and the Dark Water is available to buy: