The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
I had enjoyed Stuart Turton's debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and was excited when I heard he had another book out. My daughter gave The Devil and the Dark Water to me as part of my birthday present. She always chooses such thoughtful gifts.
Three impossible crimes
Two unlikely detectives
One deadly voyage
It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of.
But no sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails. A figure stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft.
Then: an impossible murder.
With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy?
The Devil and the Dark Water is only the second novel by Stuart Turton, but he does not write as a new or inexperienced author. This novel is set in the seventeenth century and the story takes place on a ship, which is part of a convoy, during a journey from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam. The main characters are The Governor General Jan Haan, his wife Sarah and daughter Lia, Lieutenant Arent Hayes and Samuel Pipps. Although Pipps is the world's most famous and successful detective, The Governor General insists he is held prisoner, even when questions arise about the safety of the ship, its passengers and crew.
This leaves his assistant, Arent, to investigate the problems that occur. He seeks the assistance of Sarah and other women on the ship because he lacks the self-confidence to solve the mysteries that he is sure Pipps would work out efforlessly.
There is a mysterious Countess on board who will not come out of her luxury cabin and Pipps is only permitted to come out of his cell during the hours of darkness when there is nobody else around.
Descriptions of the cabins, the cell and all the other areas of the ship are vivid and often inspire revulsion in the reader. The picture the author paints of Pipps after prolongued periods in his cell are graphic.
The is a bit of an information dump at the end of the novel, but I am willing to forgive that because of the clever twist that I felt I should have picked up on, but didn't. This is an extremely clever novel that I really enjoyed. I highly recommend it.
Stuart lives in London with his amazing wife and daughter. He drinks lots of tea. What else? When he left university he went travelling for three months and stayed away for five years. Every time his parents asked when he’d be back he told them next week, and meant it. Stuart is not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way. He’s got a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees. Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai, and now he’s a freelance journalist. None of this was planned, he just kept getting lost on his way to other places. He likes a chat. He likes books. He likes people who write books and people who read books. He doesn’t know how to write a biography, so should probably stop before he tells you about his dreams or something. It was lovely to meet you, though. Stuart's debut novel is called The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in the UK and The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in the US. They're the same book. Don't fret.