The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Summary from Goodreads:
A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.
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. Traveling 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.
And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.
Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?
With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.
This book is so amazingly well done! The story is perfect and keeps you guessing until the end. The characters, even some of the minor ones are well rounded out and have well thought out back stories. The setting, I will admit was a bit odd to me, but it does actually work for this story. My only complaint might be that the pacing was a bit slow? I am not sure that is the right word. There was just so much to this story that you do have to take your time with it, so it does seem slow, but it really isn’t.
“Some songs weren’t mere songs. They were memories curled tight and set alight. They made you heartsick.”
I absolutely loved all of the characters even the ‘villains’. They are all so well drawn, that you really feel like you get to know them, even their bad parts. The story is told through multiple points of view, but Sarah Wessel and Arent Hayes tell the majority of it. Sarah is such a wonderful character and certainly one that I think most people can relate to. She is strong, and smart, although she has learned to hide this as it is not acceptable in the time period that this story takes place. Arent is also a wonderful character, he has a lot of doubts about himself, but he still carries on and tries to solve the mystery even when things don’t look good. I loved his relationship with Samuel Pipps and his conflicted feelings about his uncle.
“Cleverness is a type of strength, and they won’t accept a woman who’s stronger than they are. Their pride won’t allow it, and their pride is the thing they hold dearest.”
As wonderful as the characters are, they are nothing compared to the story and the setting. The author does a great job of making you feel like you are on that ship and how awful travel was in the early 1600’s. I felt dirty and gross just reading about the conditions and how horrible they were. Having the setting be on a ship also gave it that locked door mystery feel. Everyone was trapped on that boat for good or evil. The story had so many twists and turns to it that it really will keep you guessing as to what is real or not.
“There’s no glory except what the minstrels make up so the nobles can feel good about the slaughter they paid for. A soldier’s job is to end up dead far from home, fighting for a king who wouldn’t give them the crumbs from his table.”
This story also tackles some interesting themes and does them well, such as how superstition and beliefs can influence the way some one lives their lives. And how fear can make some people behave for the better, but others not. There was also the role of women in this society and how even though they were often suppressed by their role in this society they somehow manage to remain true to themselves. But Sarah continues to flaunt that role, even when she know it might end in a beating from her husband.
A superbly well done story that I think many people will enjoy and love. I have not read this author’s debut book, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle yet, but it has certainly jumped to the top of my TBR after reading this one.