The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton is a historical nautical mystery that takes an Agatha Christie plot and adds the devil. The plot has so many twist and turns that all make sense. The novel is a fun who done it, with so many suspects all with murder that will make you head spin. The standouts for me is the plot, however crazy it gets there’s always a plausible reason and character work is so good giving all 20 supporting characters their unique voices who all have their own motives and actions. A quick plot for The Devil and the Dark Water is what if a Sherlock like character was in chains and locked away and his Watson like compatriot who is a sympathetic giant that is more of a bodyguard than a problem solver had to solve a supernatural the crime. This is Stuart Turton’s second novel after the excellent 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle that was best described as Agatha Christie on crack! I rarely buy new books when they first come out, but based on his strong debut I did and I was rewarded with a well thought out who done it. The story did not blow me away like The 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle did, which was my the number one book I read last year, but this is a great book that is easily in my top ten of this year.
The Plot: Samuel Pipps is the world’s greatest detective in 1634, who has been imprisoned and taken to a ship setting sail for Amsterdam to serve time for his crimes, what ever thy are. Arent Hayes is Samuel’s loyal bodyguard determined to protect him and prove his innocence, but before he can do that he has to stop a devil that boarded the transport ship. A leper warns the people boarding the Saaradam that Old Tom/ The Devil is a board this ship as he burns himself alive. When the leper is seen to they find his tongue had been severed and could not talk. Arent finds people willing to help but never knows who to trust as ghost and phantom boats lead to murder plot.
What I Liked: Really well written characters, both main and side. I was never confused with characters and there is an awful lot of them. The plot is really captivating and dealing with all the elements on a boat which is. character in it’s self. The twist are very layered, I did not guess who the killer or killers was, and was guessing back and forth until it was revealed. That for me is a true sign of a great mystery. Women are written very well and hold there own being very clever at a time when they did not have power. Arent’s character really grew on me and you can’t help but root for him solving the mystery. It’s great to see a big character not dumb who is still a gentle giant but a smart one. The going to the bathroom and what they wiped with on a ship at the time is pretty horrifying. The way the sailors are described – They’re only on this ship because they’d be hanged anywhere else.
What I Disliked: The story was always interesting, but it took a little bit for it to really get going. The after the climax ending felt unfinished, I felt the characters would definitively decide what was going to happen next, it left it mostly closed but there was still a crack that was left unclosed.
Recommendations: Check out the work of Stuart Turton great characters, really clever plot twist, that will have you guessing who done it until the end. The Devil and Dark Water is less confusing than the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle which was the main criticism for people who did not like it. This book is a lot more accessible and told in a more traditional mystery way than Hardcastle. I rated The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton 5 out of 5 stars. It is a little too soon to call Turton the king of new mystery, but he’s off to a great start I eagerly anticipate his next work. I have rated all his works 5 out of 5 stars.