Cover Image: The Devil and the Dark Water

The Devil and the Dark Water

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The Devil and the Dark Water, Stuart Turton’s brilliant second novel is a historical mystery action thriller with heart not easily put down.

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Huge huge Thank you to @sourcebooks and @netgalley for letting me read this on in advance for review.

Okay so I LOVED ‘The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton SO much. So my expectations for his new book were sky high and I was not disappointed.

I enjoyed this story so much.
Turton’s story telling is really next level.
it’s was so atmospheric, it was detailed, and it was so so twisty.

I think the best way to describe this one is an Epic Mystery.

I love books that take place on a ship/The sea because it really feeds my love of fantasy.
I loved the characters too. The book is mostly told from two perspectives but we follow a lot of other characters as well.
I will admit sometimes it was a little hard to keep track of and I think that will bother some people but I like a story with a lot of moving parts.

Also can we talk about how beautiful this cover is?!

If you like super twisty mysteries that have great plot AND great characters that I promise you will not figure out until the end, definitely go pick up this book.

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If you’ve ever yearned for a novel that’s a pastiche of Clue, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Perfect Storm (*emphatically raises hand*) then this is the book for you.

There are creepy murders. There are things that go bump (and crash and bang) in the night. There are curses. There are shipwrecks. There are storms at sea and locked room mysteries and ghost stories and hidden treasure and unlikely heroes and and and somehow all of these things fit together perfectly in this wryly structured, beautifully written adventure story.

But it’s not just an adventure story. It’s also a murder (eh, murders plural. Lots of them) mystery, and a character study, and historical fiction of sorts.

Our central hero and heroine are as lovable as they come, and as admirable as the creepy, mysterious, and elusive Old Tom is despicable.

And the plot is a sort of kitchen sink of a whole bunch of sub-genres (locked room mystery, adventure at sea, uniquely-located gothic horror, Dutch East India Company fiction) that I love, several of which are difficult to find.

Turton deftly weaves all of these seemingly disparate elements into one single narrative that is haunting, beautiful, clever, unique, and even a little bit funny.

I really enjoyed The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but this was even better.

Easily one of my top 10 books for 2020.

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After having thoroughly enjoyed The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I looked forward to starting Stuart Turton's latest mystery foray, The Devil and the Dark Water. Except, his latest novel is nothing like his previous work. Gone are the science fiction/supernatural elements that made that work so compelling. Instead, we have something akin to Sherlock Holmes on the sea, and I cannot say I am a fan.

The Devil and the Dark Water has a slow start. A very slow start. In fact, you wonder what the point of the story is well past the twenty-five percent mark. It does not make a must-read situation.

Then, once the mystery becomes apparent, it does not take long to predict the mystery's answer. In fact, you don't even have to think about the ending because you know you are right because it is such a popular red herring/mystery solution. You hope that Mr. Turton would not be that obvious, but you are wrong. To say that this does not engender disappointment would be a lie. What good is a mystery when at least part of the answer is so obvious that you know it without having to think?

Speaking of the ending, it is highly unsatisfactory, although I suspect that is most definitely not Mr. Turton's intention. I believe he means the ending to be better than a typical revenge story. Except, I don't see it that way. Instead, I see it as a bit of a way for the main characters to have their cake and eat it too. Mr. Turton found an ending that allows the main characters to all have happy endings in spite of issues like historical legality and accuracy. While others may enjoy it, I found it rang a bit false if only because he spends so much time immersing the reader in the minutiae of colonial Dutch life, with an attention to detail that can be mind-numbing at times, and his ending flouts that.

The characters in The Devil and the Dark Water also are wanting. While perfectly adequate and capable of progressing the story, they are essentially archetypes. Archetypes serve a purpose, but in this story, it feels out of place to use them. Again, Mr. Turton does not shy away from detailing all aspects of life aboard the merchant ship, so using one-dimensional characters with no growth or further development feels wrong.

Lastly, something occurs to the ship that Mr. Turton never addresses and which should not bother me but does. Without giving too much away, the bad guys need to have the ship near a certain island in order for their plan to work. Except, the ship flees a massive hurricane for two weeks, only to have to brave its waves and wind when it moves faster than they can. Mr. Turton specifically mentions that the ship travels in any direction necessary to remain ahead of the storm. Later, once in the midst of a hurricane, they don't even bother with direction and just fight to keep their ship afloat. And yet, somehow the ship ends up exactly where it needs to be. I don't know how that is possible, and Mr. Turton does not give a satisfactory explanation. When every other part of the story has a rather mundane answer, this is one mystery that he never solves and which irks me for its unbelievability.

So, The Devil and the Dark Water is definitely a disappointment, and not only because I was holding it up against his fabulous previous novel. The two are so different that you probably shouldn't compare them, except for the fact that Hardcastle was pretty damn good and The Devil and the Dark Water is not. The mystery is lackluster and predictable while the characters are archetypal and boring. His storytelling this time around is missing that WTFery as well as the shocking plot twists which made his previous story so good. I'd say skip it, but the buzz on this is much louder than my voice ever will be. So, I will say I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

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I absolutely loved this mystery. It definitely had an air of Agatha Christie to it, and it was completely readable to a person who isn't knowledgeable about the high seas life. I was worried that it might be hard to follow, but I immediately found that I loved the characters and their roles in the plot.

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Although I was excited to see a new offering by Turton since I enjoyed The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so much, this wasn't as fun of an experience. There is a lot going on within the plot between the murder mystery and a demon wreaking havoc as well as many distinct characters to keep track of; it all became too much after a while and the story didn't engage me as much as I would have liked. I also found it annoying how the final few chapters bend over backwards to spell out in great detail how everything was accomplished by way of the protagonists asking the antagonists many questions; I'm all for closure, but not to this ridiculous degree. I did appreciate the strong female characters present, especially Sara, and the unexpected direction that the tale takes at the very end. Otherwise, this is a slightly disappointing sophomore effort by Turton.

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This was a disappointment to say the least. It dragged and was not very gripping, plus the ending was so unsatisfactory. It wasn't a mind-blowing reveal and when I thought back on the clues that should've hinted at the outcome, I didn't really see the connection. To be frank, the ending actually made me a bit mad. Such a let down compared to his other novel.

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Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for my honest review

3/5 stars - full review to follow shortly

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The Devil and the Dark Water - Stuart Turton: Book review

“A murder on the high seas. A remarkable detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.”

It’s 1634; a ship carrying a fascinating cast of nobles, sailors, musketeers, a predikant, and an imprisoned detective and his bodyguard are leaving for Amsterdam. This is the illustrious backdrop for a complex mystery filled with politics, superstition and and possibly the supernatural.

I really enjoyed this book! The characters were all lively, interesting, and initially require some thought in keeping the count of who’s who. The setting is spectacular and I loved the multilevel puzzles to unravel. While the story is nothing like The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the layering of the crimes and the enclosed space setting is somewhat reminiscent and equally as masterful. The way the mystery was unravelled sort of reminded me of his previous work - a sort of tell all at the end with surprising twists.

While I really enjoyed this, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone. It was quite lengthy, and while fascinating, it didn’t have an urgent thriller-esque vibe to it. The story moves from action to action, but the quality felt more spooky and slower than super fast paced. I was surprised by the ending; I definitely did not guess the main reveals at all. At the same time, the way the ending was wrapped up left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed... such big reveals but the way it read was almost too many reveals at once?

Overall, I definitely recommend if you like mysteries with an interesting setting, historical fiction, and/or something unique. It’s a good one to pick up for the long dark days of winter ahead!

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DNF @ 25%. Putting this one aside for now, as it might be the wrong timing, but I'm just not able to connect with the story or the pacing at this time. Hoping to pick this pack up and write a proper review in the future!

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I loved this rip roaring adventure story. It had a wonderful blend of action, intrigue, and interesting characters, as well as moments of creepiness. I knew from the opening scene, that this would be a good book for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has been on my TBR since it came out, and I am moving it right to the top of the list and I will happily read whatever the author comes out with in the future. Thanks for the great read.

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1634 -- Our story begins with a mixed bag of passengers, and crew, preparing to board the Saardam on a voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam. On the docks, a leper appears high atop a pile of crates and issues a warning that the voyage will end in merciless ruin. He subsequently bursts into flames and dies a painful death. The observers, although chilled by his damning proclamation, shrug it off as the ramblings of a madman. It's harder to ignore the devil's mark that suddenly appears on the sails, however. The incident, understandably, casts a sense of foreboding over all.

Samuel Pipps, a detective of some note, happens to be aboard, but as a prisoner. Due to that status, he is locked in a grimy, claustrophobic cell, without even enough room to stand up. Luckily, his faithful bodyguard, Lieutenant Arent Hayes, is aboard and he happens to have a close connection to the Governor General, Jan Haan. Through Arent's suggestion, Samuel earns the right to be taken out of his cell every night to get his exercise and fresh air upon the decks.

As mysterious happenings continue to plague the ship, paired with reoccurrences of the devil's mark, Arent teams up with Jan Haan's lovely wife, Sara Wessel, to try to get to the bottom of it. An important piece of Arent's past, the lore of a demon named Old Tom, plays a large role in this story. Some say Old Tom is aboard this ship; he's the cause of all the problems. There's a ghost ship stalking them, their food source is threatened, a storm like no other threatens to sink them, people die, things disappear and throughout it all, Old Tom is trying to sway all aboard to his side.

This book has such a vibe. I don't quite have words for it, but I love it! As with The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, The Devil and the Dark Water is such a complex, suspenseful mystery. The tone of this novel, the is it supernatural, is it not-feel of it all was masterfully done. Additionally, the use of Arent and Sara as an amateur sleuthing team was incredibly executed.

Together they are trying to work out who among them has been possessed by Old Tom. Their investigation has a lot of twists and turns, casting doubts on numerous passengers and crew. All of the characters were so interesting. Anyone could have been the baddie. I had no clue who to suspect!

The entire story was completely original. I have never read anything quite like it. Turton's imagination knows no bounds. Apparently, 17th-Century Supernatural Mysteries are now my jam, because I am OBSESSED with this!

Thank you so much to the publisher, SourceBooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This was by far, one of my most anticipated reads of the year, so I certainly appreciate it.

I am such of fan of Turton's writing and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

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I haven’t written a review on Netgalley for a book I didn’t finish before, but after reading a good chunk of it and talking to other readers, I feel like I can say safely this isn’t a book for me. Unfortunately it’s just too long, stiff and boring. There’s almost no action and I have confirmed that doesn’t change going forward. The characters are hard to keep track of, not just because of the number of them, but because they’re all pretty flat and uninteresting. I still am a big Turton fan from Evelyn Hardcastle, but this one was definitely a miss for me.

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Samuel Pipps is the most valuable agent employed by the Gentlemen 17 who run the Dutch East India Company. His cases are read by the public like the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. But after successfully completing a mission in Batavia on the island of Java, he is suddenly arrested and imprisoned in a dungeon before being transported to Amsterdam to stand trial for an unknown offense. His bodyguard and associate Arent Hayes is determined to not only find out what Sammy stands accused of, but also to discover and thwart the unknown force that is threatening to destroy the ship they are sailing on. Although this was an interesting mystery, the ending felt rushed and therefore a little unsatisfactory.

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I would not survive on a ship at sea in 1634. This story felt so real that I barely survived reading it.

When I read Stuart Turton's first book last year, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I became an immediate and, perhaps, obsessed fan. I might've begun stalking both Turton and Sourcebooks on social media while I awaited another book. Then this one was announced, and I got my hands on an eARC, and I screeched happy sounds. Then I paused with trepidation because, you know, it's difficult to follow up on perfection.

No such worries here. I loved The Devil and the Dark Water, and I remain obsessed with Stuart Turton's writing. (Just his writing. I'm not dangerous. I swear!)

We're led into this story with a slow burn, immersing us in the atmosphere, allowing us to settle in, get to know the characters, and feel comfortable. Then, just when we get our footing on that ship's deck, the stormy waves hit us full force in the face.

In Samuel Pipps, we have a respectful nod to Sherlock Holmes. We also have a fascinating cast of characters, strong females, adventure, eerie suspense, a spattering of horror, and twists you won't see coming.

If you're looking for unique, immersive historical fiction that dangles you in the occult, this is it.

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After reading Stuart Turton's debut novel, I immediately hit request when I saw his next book pop up on NetGalley. It can be intimidating writing your second novel when your first one was such a HIT, but Stuart Turton ahs done it AGAIN. I'm not surprised.

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A ship sets sail for Amsterdam with precious cargo, dangerous secrets, and a possible devil on board hiding in a passenger's body. Will the passengers be able to save themselves and everyone they love before it's too late?
I want to preface this by saying that I read Turton's The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle last year, and it was an instant favourite for me in the mystery genre. The premise was intriguing and the execution pulled through, so I was extremely excited for anything else he put out, Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of The Devil and the Dark Water.
I felt that as a whole, this book was simply too long. I would read for what felt like hours and only get 5% ahead. This was not helped by the barrage of technical ship-speak, as though the author wanted to demonstrate just how much research he had done about 17th century ships and sea voyaging. Obviously, historical accuracy is important and appreciated, but for some reason it felt excessive in this case (this might be a personal gripe, though, I will admit.)
I also felt like for such an exciting premise, the book felt quite boring. We are given the set-up of an incredible, Sherlock Holmes-esque detective aboard the ship in chains for mysterious reasons, an ominous warning of devilry aboard the ship before it sets sail, and family secrets lurking below the surface, which taken together seem to be a recipe for a thrilling and exciting ride, but my goodness it moved entirely too slowly to keep me hooked. Towards the last 30% the pace picked up, but by then I had already started feeling disillusioned and irritated. The danger and the high stakes were just not felt to the extent that I wish they had been. We also didn't get nearly enough page time for this Holmes-esque detective, although he was still mentioned constantly.
The ending was also not at all to my liking, which, again, might be more of a personal thing. It felt too far-fetched, not satisfying, and out-of-character, and while certain aspects were clever, I didn't feel the same sense of wonder and intrigue that I had felt when I was reading The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
The character work and prose are the stronger suits of this book. Turton has a knack for beautiful descriptions and understands human nature quite well; his books often have one-liners full of wisdom that are applicable beyond the confines of the book. The characters are all fully-fleshed out and unique, with their own circumstances and motivations that helped me be more invested in the story, thankfully.
Overall, I gave this book 3 stars because it is objectively not a bad book, I just didn't manage to connect with it for whatever reason.

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3.5 stars.

I loved Turton's previous book The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and I was pretty excited to read his latest, The Devil and the Dark Water. I read a description of this book that called it a mix between Sherlock Holmes, Stephen King and Pirates of the Caribbean. And that seems like an accurate description to me! This is an epic adventure at sea with a large cast of characters and a devil wreaking havoc among both the passengers and the crew.

I liked this book. I liked that it was a departure from Evelyn Hardcastle and a completely different kind of story. There were moments that were suspenseful and moments of intrigue that completely capture my attention. But I didn't love it as much as I had hoped. I found that I really wanted to like this one more than I actually did.

There are a lot of characters in this story, and I struggled for a large part of the book to keep them all straight. The beginning of the book does feature a list of characters, and I think it would have been beneficial for me to reference that list. But I was reading on my Kindle, and that just seemed like to much effort to go back and find the character list. Instead I just plowed on and tried somewhat unsuccessfully to remember everyone in my head. It's also a really long book, and while some moments were great and kept me engaged, at other times I really struggled to keep paying attention.

I don't think I was quite in the right mood for reading this type of book, and that may have affected some of my enjoyment of the story. However, I did find a lot of things that were enjoyable in this book, so it was definitely worth the time and effort that it took me to read it! The ending was kind of chaotic and crazy, but I thought it was a lot of fun as the twists began to be revealed.

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me an early copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Stuart Turton is a master of the written word. His character building is extremely intricate, which does result in some longer novels. But they are worth it! If you don’t mind the extra time commitment of reading a more dense story with a higher word count, I think you will walk away from DEVIL pleasantly surprised.
I do want to preface this review by saying—I adored EVELYN HARDCASTLE, his first novel. I was completely mindblown by the ending of that book. I don’t know if DEVIL was better, but it was just as fun to unravel.

Sammy Pipps is basically Sherlock Holmes in the1650s, I immediately assumed he would be the central character, but we find him shackled and thrown in jail for much of the story. He is unquestionably a genius, but the real hero of the book is his muscle man—Arent Hayes.
Initially, I almost ignored Hayes. I expected him to be the brainless brawn besides Sammy’s sleuthing. But you come to learn how much more there is to Hayes through the novel. I came to really love him and admire him! He was most definitely my favorite character, and the one I was rooting for.

To story takes place aboard a spice ship. All these characters (there is a mass array of them) board despite a tongue-less leper cursing their journey and warning them of Old Tom, a very frightening demon.
The ship's crew is another story all on its own. These are horrible men who do vile things to each other, and Arent and his friends have to deal with them to figure out what the demon wants and who he's after.
One of the men serving on the crew was actually the one to cut out the tongue of this leper as he used to work on the ship as well.
Through the story chilling and creepy demonic events start to happen. You learn a lot about the history and symbology of Old Tom. Arent has a complicated last involved with this demon as does his uncle who is in charge of the ship and it’s cargo.
This story is filled with side plots, in exciting character history and some love interest sprinkled in.
You are trying to uncover who Old Tom is truly haunting, if anyone in the boat is possessed by the demon or if it’s all an elaborate hoax.

The ending comes at you hard and fast.
It was a lot of information thrown out at once as all the secrets are unveiled. (This totally reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes rant at the end of those stories.)
I have to tell you, I never in a million years would have guessed the book ending like it did. But Turton always seems to take us by surprise.
This story was fun! If you are a fan of mysteries and detective stories than this is right up your alley. You also get a spooky feel with the creepy demon haunting the boat, and I personally got a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe with the ship wreck on a lost island at the very end of the story.
I enjoyed reading this book and following along with the characters. The ending was a bit abrupt, but it concluded on an open ended note. This suggests there might be more books involving these characters, but who knows!

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This was an epic voyage of fear and foreboding that had a fiendish mystery at its heart. Full of dark imagery and the haunting presence of a paranormal entity, it is a complex story that brings together a fascinating group of characters and a fantastically immersive setting, with oceans of atmosphere. The action is good too, but is undermined somewhat by a cumbersome pace.

The concept and core themes are superbly executed, with an attention to detail that truly transports you to the ship where the vast majority of the events take place. There is a lot going on in the book and there were moments that I found much more gripping than others, but it never loses its sense of intrigue and after nearly 600 pages, the ending is totally worth the wait.

It is 1734, and Samuel Pipps is the world's greatest detective. The extraordinary facts of his cases have been written up by his sidekick Arent Hayes, giving him something of a legendary status. But now, he has been imprisoned by governor general Jan Haan for an unknown crime and taken aboard the Saardam, a ship bound for Amsterdam.

Before they set sail, the passengers and crew are terrified by the appearance of a leper, who yells across the dockyard and declares that the Saardam is doomed. He immediately catches fire and dies, despite the best efforts of Arent and Haan's less than adoring wife Sara to revive him. They learn that he had no tongue, which leads them to conclude that he could not have spoken the ominous words, and that everyone on the ship really is in grave danger.

When the sail unfurls and reveals the image of an eye with a tail, Arent is further alarmed, as it is exactly the same sign as a scar on his wrist that has been there since childhood. It is the mark of a demon called Old Tom, and as deadly and devilish incidents occur over the course of the journey, it appears that he is possessing one of the people on board. With no Samuel Pipps to call upon, it is up to Arent and Sara to follow the clues and discover what evil is at play.

The dramatic start and the promise of what was to come really pulled me in to this story. It was an interesting twist by the author to sideline the detective and allow other characters to be the ones tasked with solving the mystery, but it works wonderfully well as it makes things less predictable and enables these characters to undergo significant growth.

I was also extremely taken by the idea that the demon is said to be possessing one of the characters, which naturally keeps you guessing, as well as on the look out for any clues, however tiny. The one issue with this was that there are actually too many characters. They are all quite well developed in the end, but trying to remember who was who made for a difficult task at first.

The most enduring theme of the book relates to fear and how people react when they are seemingly in a life or death situation. Although I would have liked the tension to be more palpable in the writing, this is still conveyed really well, through the frightened and at times ruthless actions of those aboard the ship. Just as meaningful is the topic of how women were viewed in that time period, and I loved how the female characters so emphatically defied those social norms.

It is only at the end when the answers are revealed that you truly appreciate how clever the story is and the intricacy of the plotting, as until then it does not feel like there is much of a pattern to the events. Perhaps it is too clever. The mystery is wide-ranging and goes far beyond the question of who is being controlled by Old Tom, with elements such as the Folly, the leper, and Jan Haan's secret cargo.

All of these details give the story a lot of depth, but unfortunately that did lead to a slow pace which I did sometimes struggle with. There are certain chapters where not much really happens and you are told things rather than shown them. On the plus side, the quality of the writing is there in abundance. The dialogue is marvellous and the book is clearly very well researched, which is evident both with the historical content and in the frequent use of nautical terms.

The whole thing is written in the third person and focuses on almost every one of the characters at various points, but the main protagonists are Arent and Sara. I really liked them both, and also the way their relationship gradually developed over the course of the book, having faith in each other all the way while never refusing to do the right thing.

Arent is a powerful and imposing figure who gets involved in several scrapes, but on the surface he is extremely gallant and kind hearted. He is clearly in awe of Samuel Pipps and doubts his own abilities, but he has a very interesting story to tell. I liked the way he went about his investigation and at one point, it looked like the entire series of events revolved around him.

From the beginning, it felt like Sara would be one of my favourite characters, and I was not proved wrong. She is strong, compassionate, and not afraid of taking action when needed. I probably connected with the story most when she appeared, and I loved the dynamic she shared with her precocious, single-minded daughter Lia, who is also highly entertaining to read.

Samuel Pipps himself only appears occasionally, but he is instantly memorable. He is charismatic and swashbuckling, with incredible powers of deduction. Jan Haan is much more of a pragmatist, choosing to stare evil in the face. The disregard he shows towards others makes him very unlikable, while the same could be said about the likes of Jacobi Drecht and Johannes Wyck.

Along with the excessive amount of characters in the book, the setting plays a very central role. I loved the uncomfortable and claustrophobic atmosphere of the Saardam, which is so vivid that it makes you feel like you are physically there, walking along the narrow corridors between cabins or witnessing the glow of the eighth lantern.

The ending is full of interesting surprises, as it removes the wool from over your eyes with some dramatic scenes that bring out the very best in the protagonists. For me, it was the highlight of the book, which was just as well because the slow pace of the rest of the story meant that it demanded an exceptional finish. The last few chapters were a terrific ride.

Overall, it was a superbly written book which provided an excellent array of characters - albeit slightly too many - and vicarious attention to detail. Sadly there were times when I was not particularly hooked by the story, but in general I really enjoyed it. Both the setting and the whole concept of Old Tom were totally memorable, and it ends with a real flourish.

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