Cover Image: The Devil and the Dark Water

The Devil and the Dark Water

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this book. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is still my favorite, but I loved it. I cannot wait to see what this author has in store for us next.

Was this review helpful?

History and murder, who could ask for more. I so enjoyed this read... it was captivating and kept me turning the pages for more.

Was this review helpful?

Four stars for The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton.

I was a huge fan of Turton’s debut novel The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. While his newest novel doesn’t require a plot that is drawn out on a chalkboard, it’s still an enjoyable read that has enough twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of his seat until the last page.

Turton also accomplishes a feat that most authors have not been able to do - get this reader interested in reading a novel set at sea during the time of pirates and scurvy. I wish the novel had started with a map of the boat, to better orient myself throughout the novel, but the secret passageways added to my enjoyment of the setting.

All in all, this is a successful second outing from Turton, and it makes me excited to see what else he will create going forward. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Stuart Turton debuted as an author in 2018 with his release of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The book received tons of positive criticism from the literary world with endorsements from best-selling authors like A.J. Finn (The Woman in the Window), and recommendations from numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, BookRiot, and Buzzfeed. The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle became a popular addition to book club rosters in 2019 due to its positive reception, accompanied by the building anticipation for his 2020 release, The Devil and the Dark Water.

The Devil and the Dark Water aligns with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres. Turton can be expected to join the ranks of other popular and best-selling mystery-suspense authors like Lucy Foley, Karin Slaughter, Tana French, and Paula Hawkins. What sets Turton apart from some of the other mystery-thriller authors is his style of writing. Turton’s writing is unique in the same manner Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn’s writing is unique.

The Devil and the Dark Water takes place on the Saardam, a 17th-century passenger ship sailing from Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, bound for Amsterdam. Aboard the Saardam is a mysterious and undisclosed cargo of immense value escorted under the Governor General and his command staff. Accompanying him are his family and guests, and one prisoner, Samuel Pipps. The same Pipps who is a renowned investigative detective and who helped to secure the mysterious cargo before being taken into custody.

Prior to the Saardam’s departure, a leper issues a foreboding omen from the docks that all who embark will face a merciless peril, and the ship will not reach Amsterdam. This warning is ignored until it seems as though a dark and ominous presence takes hold of the ship. A murder occurs from within a locked room, a ghost ship tails the Saardam, and a disembodied voice is heard amongst the passengers and crew. Among the explainable are equally unexplainable circumstances in which all aboard question the legitimacy of a fabled demon that is supposedly lurking amongst them all.

A truly phenomenal read, not just for the story it tells but for the truths woven throughout. This book is excellent for those who like to read between the lines, discover more than just the surface story that is told. A remarkable page-turner, enthralling and engrossing, The Devil and the Dark Water asks of its readers to either believe in the unthinkable or think the unbelievable. But choose quick and be certain, because the wrong one could cost you your life, your soul, or both.

Was this review helpful?

This was a great follow up to Turton's debut novel. His strength seems to be the "bottle episode" narrative, which I absolutely love. The majority of this book takes place on a ship, and even though I have no interest in ships, I found it easy to follow along and keep track of where the numerous characters were. One thing I love about Turton is that even though he writes mysteries, he imbues them with moral quandries that make for great discussion. My only complaints with this novel are that it started out very slowly (compared to 7 1/2 Deaths), and the ending seemed a bit too tidy. Overall, it was a solid read and I will be recommending it to other readers and library patrons.

Was this review helpful?

This is a hard review to write, cause I absolutely LOVED The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle! I’m sorry, but this was rather disappointing and boring. I had a hard time getting into it, and even got confused within the first couple of chapters, the first time I attempted to read it. I actually had to go back and read the description, then start all over.

I wanted to like this one, but didn’t.

Was this review helpful?

4.5 stars. Dark waters indeed. This ship carries a cargo of murder and greed.

Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was one of my favorite reads of 2018, a compulsively readable and wildly original murder mystery, an homage to Agatha Christie, with a science fictional wrapper. Turton’s second novel, The Devil and the Dark Water, is a highly twisty and eerie Sherlockian mystery, set in the seventeenth century on a large ship traveling from Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) to Amsterdam. At first glance it’s not much at all like 7½ Deaths, except in the intricacy of the plot … and the way it mixes together different genres, and the vivid and complex characters who are far more than they first appear, and the insightful and subtle writing … well, perhaps his two books have more in common than I first thought.

The noble passengers who board the Saardam in Batavia in 1634 include Governor General Jan Haan, a ruthless leader who has been called back to Amsterdam to join the wealthy Dutch East India Company’s ruling body, the “Gentleman 17.” Haan’s entourage includes his deeply dissatisfied wife Sara Wessel, their bright young teenage daughter Lia, and Haan’s lovely and accomplished mistress Creesjie. Haan is also bringing along a manacled prisoner, a renowned and brilliant detective named Samuel Pipps, together with Pipps’ assistant and sometimes bodyguard Arent Hayes. Pipps is under sentence of death, to be carried out once they reach Amsterdam, though Pipps swears he has no idea why, and Haan isn’t saying. Haan is also packing a large, heavy box on the trip, holding something mysterious and extremely valuable, described only as the Folly.

Before the Saardam even sets sail, a shocking event occurs: a leper loudly warns the passengers and crew that the devil will also be sailing with them, and that the ship will never reach Amsterdam. When the leper perishes in flames and examination of the dying man discloses that his tongue was cut out, suspicion and fear begin to percolate and spread. Samuel Pipps is interested in solving this apparent murder, but since he’s locked in a tiny, foul cell on the ship, he’ll need the help of Arent to do it. Arent fears that he isn’t cut out for this work, but finds help from an unexpected person. They’re a rare source of light and good on a cursed ship where the crew is vicious, the passengers untrustworthy, and the devil “Old Tom” appears to hold sway.

For much of The Devil and the Dark Water, it’s unclear whether this is a supernatural fantasy or a secular whodunit, or both. Inexplicable events occur, Old Tom whispers enticingly to passengers to assist in his evil plans, and it’s easy for the characters and the reader to believe that something wicked and unworldly is at work.

But Turton takes his time weaving this story, pulling in characters’ backstories that both illuminate and mystify, and twining in social issue threads of inequality, sexism, and capitalistic greed.

"The rich mistakenly believed their wealth was a servant, delivering them whatever they wanted.

They were wrong.

Wealth was their master, and it was the only voice they heeded. Friendships were sacrificed at its behest, principles trampled to protect it. No matter how much they had, it was never enough. They went mad chasing more until they sat lonely atop their hoard, despised and afraid."

The pacing bogs down at times with all the details and complexities, but Turton’s skillful writing pulls the reader into this tale. He gives clever nods to Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Treasure Island, and many other tropes of various genres, while breathing fresh life into them. With all the horror, greed, vengefulness and general darkness that haunts the ship and the people aboard it, they — and we — can still find reasons to hope for something better. It’s a marvelous story.

Was this review helpful?

I was SO excited to read The Devil in the Dark Water as Evelyn Hardcastle is one of my most favorite books ever.

I definitely think I went in with super high expectations and pre conceived wishes for the genius of his previous book, and while the book was captivating, atmospheric, and enjoyable - it was SO different and just didn't have that WOW factor of Evelyn.

We spend most of the book on a ship that appears to be cursed, and watch all those aboard try to figure out if they are doomed, what the mysterious happenings on the ship are caused by, and who is behind the curse.

The beginning is verrrrrrrrry slow. And at times it drags and feels repetitive. I think it could have benefitted from being 100 pages shorter. But about mid-way it picked up and didn't let go until the every end. I flew through the second half and was so invested in the mystery and HAD to find out what the devil was happening. I'm pretty sure it took me 2 weeks to read the first half, and about 2 days to read the second half.

I love Turton's writing, and his ability to craft a great story and amazing characters - and was impressed at where the book seemed to be headed. Unfortunately, the end completely ruined it for me. I was so disappointed but the direction it went and felt I had wasted so much time for such an off-kilter reveal. And it felt like an especially abrupt ending as well.

I do think expectations got the best of me with this one.

Was this review helpful?

*3 1/2 stars* A ship on the high seas trying to make an 8 month long voyage in the 1600s is a great setting for a Sherlock Holmes - type mystery. Lots of weird stuff going on with superstition and devilry. Most characters were scoundrels. But the main characters were great. It did feel overly long at times. Overall, this was a unique story. The ending was the best part.

Was this review helpful?

Having loved the experience of reading The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I was very excited for the release of Turton’s follow up but unfortunately this book was not for me.
This novel has a similar movie-like atmosphere as 7 Deaths but I wasn’t hooked in immediately. For fans of historical novels/mysteries this would be a good pick but sadly I could not get into it.

Was this review helpful?

The ship they’ve boarded for Amsterdam appears to be doomed, haunted by a dead leper and the demon Old Tom. With Sammy, the famous detective, locked in a cell below, Arent and Sara try to discover what is happening, who is responsible, and how to save the passengers. This is a creepy, suspenseful, and thought-provoking historical thriller. Throw in friendship, family, and a little romance.

Was this review helpful?

I was provided an ARC of this via netgalley, however I opted to listen to the finished version of the audiobook. All opinions are my own.

I thoroughly enjoyed [book:The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle|36337550], but this kind of fell flat for me. I think what didn't work was the length and repetitiveness of the book. The concept and mystery part was fine, it just took far too long to get to it. The information about the "devil" aka Old Tom was repeated several times throughout without revealing anything new, we are also reminding multiple times how cruel and violent the Governor General is to his wife. The pacing was very slow, and for a book over 400 pages (the audio is just over 17 hours) you need a fast paced, action packed story to keep you turning the pages. I didn't find that to be the case here. I think there were too many characters to keep track of, I think this was to keep you guessing as to who the culprit was, but I ultimately lost track of who was who other than Arent and Sara. I also quickly lost track of what was happening with the plot. Evelyn Hardcastle was a fairly long book but it kept me turning the pages to find out what was going on.

I will say that the reveal at the end was good. The concept of Old Tom and the Eighth Landten kept me interested and I kept reading to find out what was really going on. I will say Turton gives you just enough spooky events to keep you wondering if something paranormal is going on during this sea voyage and just enough information to make you speculate about what is really going on.

Overall, I think this had a very interesting concept, but for me it was far to long and slow paced for my taste. There seem to be fairly polarized reviews of this book, so take this review with a grain of salt. Many people loved this book, but I found it lacking the suspenseful feel I need to stay interested in a mystery.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you, Net Galley, for giving me a chance to review this book!

It was thrilling and had tons of twists and turns. Great historical fiction mystery. I can't wait for Turton's next book, since I loved this one and his first one, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Will definitely be recommending this one to patrons.

Was this review helpful?

I like historical mysteries and I'd heard good things about this author. While I didn't hate the book, I also didn't finish it and here's why:

From the beginning, the book felt like a movie treatment. The dramatic walk in chains through the city gates to the waiting ships. The leprous beggar who held everyone's attention with his dire warning. The beautiful wife striding through the crowds because she alone can help this stricken beggar. The over-the-top bad guy husband who we know we're meant to loathe from the very beginning.

So far, so visual. And so tropey. I knew who I was supposed to like and hate. The writing itself was okay, but felt just a little awkward, like the writer knew what he wanted to say but was struggling with sentence structure and vocabulary. It's a long book, and I wasn't inspired to continue.

Was this review helpful?

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the '7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle', which completely blew me away. So of course I couldn't wait to read 'The Devil and the Dark Water'. The brilliant 'Evelyn Hardcastle' is a hard act to follow, but this book is also excellent.

It isn't quite as twisty and mind-blowing as Turton's previous book, but it still has plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. It begins with a curse and the sudden and inexplicable death of a leper just as the passengers and crew prepare to board the Saardam for a long sea voyage. Strange events follow on from this--the appearance of a devil's mark on the sails, the disappearance of items aboard the ship, fights, fear and death.

Samuel Pipps, a renowned detective, is onboard but he is imprisoned for a mysterious offense. His bodyguard, Arent Hayes, teams up with the wife of the Governor General to uncover the true source of their troubles.

I enjoyed the book immensely and looking forward to purchasing and recommending it. I was very pleased to see that it has been nominated on the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery and Thriller. It got my vote!

Was this review helpful?

Dear Mr. Turton, you happen to write the types of books I like to read. The Devil and the Dark Water is a literary version of the game Clue, played with a tarot deck, with cards like: the giant, the dwarf, the monster, the maiden...This book is the brain child of Murder On The Orient Express but with the ocean as the new setting.
With a cast of characters as unique as in The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, this is one entertaining read.

Was this review helpful?

This is my first drink at the fascinating water fountain that is the writer Stuart Turton. I have been tempted to read his previous novel “ The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” but for some reason have not done so. Now, thanks to NetGalley I just completed “The Devil and the Dark Water.” This novel purports to be a mix of suspense, mystery, perhaps some horror and a dollop of the supernatural...all mixed together into an historical story set on the high seas! Set in the 17th century we follow Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, his loyal sidekick and security guard Arent Hayes (our apparent hero in the story) and Sara Wessel ( our apparent heroine) on board the ship. We have strange evil symbols popping up everywhere, we have a scary leper stalking the decks -mostly at night, or perhaps in a dense fog-, dead livestock, mysterious supernatural voices whispering doom and I could go on and on.
So did I like this book? Mostly “yes” but with an asterisk. The plot is unique which I love. The writing is very (very) good. The plot drives one to turn the page then turn another page. The big reveals at the end of the story will leave you breathless. The asterisk is due to the plot somehow winding itself into a Gordian knot and even after all is explained I am sitting here wondering how certain key plot lines could have occurred within the universe of the book. “The Devil and the Dark Water” reaches for greatness and for the most part achieves it.

Was this review helpful?

A spooky, atmospheric novel, featuring ghost ships, curses, and mysteries galore. With a bad omen immediately before the ship sets sail, everyone in this novel is on edge. When a ghost from the past returns and starts to kill passengers one by one, Arent, a detective's assistant/bodyguard, is determined to unravel the mystery. With a large cast of characters and a focus on the minute details surrounding the crimes, this one is reminicent of an old-school mystery, while the suspense keeps you firmly invested. The solution to the case is ingenious, but leads to a lackluster conclusion.

Was this review helpful?

Adventure on the high seas, murder, revenge, and mystery create a fine reading experience with this well researched historical novel. In 1634, the spice trade is key to the incredible prosperity of The Netherlands and, in particular, the wealth of the proprietors of The East India Company. The Saardam, the primary ship of the spice fleet headed for Amsterdam carries on it not only spices, but the company's governor, his family, and, in chains, Samuel Pipps, a detective. A mysterious curse laid on the ship just before embarkation, lays a sinister and supernatural mood affecting the voyage, and things get worse from there. More twists than a snake, and just as sinister, this novel will keep the reader in suspense until the last few chapters. End seems a little forced, but it's a fine trip to that point.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so I was looking forward to reading this author's newest book. However the beginning of this was so slow, it was hard to get into.

It has a Sherlock and Watson vibe which I was excited about as I’m a big Sherlock fan, but then Sherlock is imprisoned for most of the story (it’s in the synopsis) and it quickly becomes a long slow burn of a mystery. It felt like nothing was happening for most of the book but I kept reading in hopes of a big twist or something to pick up the pace.

Like the author's first book, there are a lot of characters and in his first one they were easier for me to keep track of. In this one I had to take a picture of the character list and refer to it constantly because I could only remember who three of the people were.

Also the ending was kind of disappointing. I was 99% through and there still wasn’t a resolution and I had no idea what was going to happen on the last page. What did happen didn’t really make sense to me. It seemed like the characters wanted the best of both worlds and it just didn’t seem like a plausible ending and one that was wrapped up too quickly.

This book was very different from his first one but I think you should give this one a chance as I think I’m in the minority about my feelings towards it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?