Crime Fiction Books

The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton | Book Recommendation

The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery & Thriller, Historical Fiction

Published: Oct 2020, Bloomsbury UK

Swathi’s Rating: 4.5/5


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… 

My Thoughts

From the author of The Seven Deaths of Hardcastle comes another historical thriller fiction with overtones of paranormal aspects, this time set on an East India Trading Ship carrying passengers and spices across the ocean from Batavia to Amsterdam.

Are you ready to sail aboard?

Behold, for the voyage is full of terrors over the murky waters. The year is 1634 and Saardam is all set to welcome her passengers aboard and deliver the Governor General and his Folly to the Gentlemen 17. The Governor is travelling with his wife and daughter and his mistress. And then there is the prisoner and his bodyguard, the unlikely duo – the brilliant detective Samuel Pipps and the gigantic, loyal Arent Hayes. All is set, until a leper appears out of nowhere and warns, almost dangerously, that the galleon is haunted by the demon Old Tom and the voyage is doomed. Then, as the crowd watches, the leper burns to death.

If this is bizarre, then it is just the beginning of a series of mayhem including mysterious leper appearances from this air, demonic sightings and hearing strange voices during the voyage and then finally dead bodies piling up. What is really happening? Is Saardam really possessed by the infamous Old Tom that the people believe is real? Or is this the doing of someone sinister? There is only one person who could really deduce what is happening and why. Unfortunately for them, Sammy Pipps is locked down in an airless, dark room leaving Arent solely in charge of the bizzare events that follow – including murder.

Except, Arent cannot solve this all by himself can he? After all,

‘Arent Hayes was a zealot.
His religion was Samuel Pipps.’

Coming to the rescue are the trio comprising Sara Wessel, her daughter and Creesjie Jens which is quite interesting as they crush the male dominating ego that seems to rule the ship and it’s men, including the impenetrable Governor general Jan Haans. Could they do it? Could they find the conspiracy behind the Old Tom superstition and save the ship and it’s travellers before it’s too late? After all there is a lot of wealth that is sailing with them and almost everyone is greedy enough to kill each other. That leaves all of them with motive and all they need is evidence to prove their never-ending theories.

Stuart Turton does it again with crafting his characters to perfection with his lyrical description and utmost attention to detail. If you think it is just his clever plotting and profound twists and turns that Turton offers to his readers, then you’d probably underestimated this intelligent Costa Award winning author. His dark sense of humor and witty dialogues and comebacks are such a delight and defining factor of many of his characters.

Here is one of my favorites as Creesjie the mistress observes,‘the stories of your size aren’t overstated, are they, Lieutenant Hayes? It’s like God forgot to stop making you.’

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was released in 2018 and I am yet to find an equally unique and intriguing multi-genre cat-and-mouse thriller. In the Devil and Dark Water, Turton promises to give us the whole package and more including stories of superstition, fear of death, wealth to loot and plunder, storms and thunder that rocks the boat, and nightmares to keep them up all night. Not a single page to bore you down, this 500+ page masterpiece is bound to keep you racing through the chapters, especially those last 100 pages when I had bitten my nails so hard and had to pause to take a breather.

If there exists a way of teleporting yourself to the 1600s without actually time traveling back to the century, I'd suggest you use Turton's words and immerse yourself nice and warm into his stories. Although, one would feel lucky not to be aboard the godforsaken ship, along with cunning cunts and a possible demon, a ghost ship that keeps following them and an enormous storm that seems to last for days together.

Many, many thanks to Stuart Turton’s Publicist at Bloomsbury UK, Laura Meyer for arranging an early proof sent my way to India. I picked the Demon on my birthday and used the chunky book as a pillow for the days that followed until I was completely, utterly sated.

If this review hasn’t yet tempted you to order a copy of the book, then I’d suggest you to look at these gorgeous hardcovers exclusively at Waterstones.

Meet the Author

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who has previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel. He is the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. He lives in West London with his wife.


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