The Devil and the dark water by Stuart Turton

Arent Hayes boards the Saerdam with his master Samuel Pipps, a well-known detective. The ship sails from Batavia to Amsterdam and carries a mysterious cargo. General Jan Haan hopes to claim a high political postion thanks to it. However, just before embarkment Pipps is apprehended by Haan and detained during the crossing. In addition, the Saerdam is cursed by a leper who is murdered before everyone’s eyes. Arent must now unravel the mystery without his master and receives unexpected help from Haan’s wife Sara Wessel.

The Devil and the Dark water is a mystery/thriller set on a ship in the 17th century. I wouldn’t call the book historical, but I love books set on ships. The fact that the scenery is so confined to the ship itself adds to the suspense, especially when there is a murderer on board. So this is not my normal cup of tea, but I did enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Turton effortlessly weaves a whole cast of characters into the story. All of whom could be the culprit. With amateur detectives Sara and Arent, he creates an inventive duo who must search for the truth. In addition, he cleverly includes a magical devil in ‘Old Tom’, suddenly giving this story a hefty gulp of magical realism.

The denouement is clever and, as a reader, impossible to fully guess. The whole book is well put together and reads smoothly. This is the kind of thriller I do enjoy reading. And the story is unique. I can’t immediately compare Turton’s work to anyone else’s.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read anything by Turton? What’s your favourite book set on a ship?


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