The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

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It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

Well what can be said about Stuart Turton’s new book, there is a lot of pressure given it had to follow the critically acclaimed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? 

The Devil and the Dark Water is pretty close to perfect – a masterfully woven mystery that harks back to the very best of (yes I’m going to say it) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (that’s right I went there because the comparisons are valid) as Turton delivers us a beguiling mystery that has the reader enraptured from the very first page to the very last. His story is wrapped in elegant prose, memorable characters and a skill that if you were reading the book without knowing who wrote it you would think it was a long lost manuscript from the master of mystery himself Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

I’m not a huge fan of mystery, detective or crime stories but Turton may have single handedly just changed my mind on that front. Turton writes with an engaging quality, a frenzied enthusiasm (you can tell he loved writing this book) that casts a spell on the reader and drags them kicking and screaming onto this doomed vessel where the reader is forced to live within the pages in vivid detail amongst the crew and it’s passengers (Turton’s writing is an assault on all your senses) and Turton also opens our eyes to the hidden perils of life at sea at this time.

If you are thinking this is straight laced crime but set in the 1600’s you’d be wrong – Turton delivers a masterful horror yarn too – focusing more on the supernatural / demon possessed quality of that genre. It makes for an unrelenting thrill ride which I never wanted to end. Turton writes the horror as well as the best of them in that field – but given the time setting, The Devil and the Dark Water has a very Gothic vibe which adds even more intensity, unease and a suffocating foreboding to the plot. It’s scary and it’s good.

You see The Devil and the Dark Water is not easily put into one box, it’s a brilliant piece of genre bending fiction that will bring fans from far and wide, horror, mystery, crime, literary fiction lovers – its net is wide and I believe the haul of readers will be dredged from the very corners of the market to devour this mighty fine offering. I’ve also recently read Alma Katsu’s The Deep, which is of a similar vein, taking a historical event or period and giving it a horror makeover (The Deep focuses on the doomed voyage of the Titanic and the Britannic – and again giving it this supernatural slant) – it’s great seeing historical fiction taking this move towards horror and the Gothic there is quite clearly a market for it and a readership that will snap it up.

In my opinion Stuart Turton with this offering proves himself as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s successor, such is the brilliance and the mastery that Turton displays with crafting such a fine mystery, who done it tale; it’s a crazy thrill ride of a novel, with deep mystery, dark horror and with a writing style that is a joy to read – I’d also say that it could be likened to Scooby Doo on steroids – and who doesn’t want to read that!

Delving too deep into an full review will I’m sure contain spoiler which I don’t want to do, the magic of this book is the mystery that Turton hides and reveals so deftly – so I’ll leave the review there, but one thing is for certain – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a great book but The Devil and the Dark Water is just masterful, it’s Turton’s magnum opus – a stunning, beguiling and intoxicating read that will devour your very soul, if you let it.

The Devil and the Dark Water is a violent tempest of a book that there is no escape from, and a book I highly recommend!

The Devil and the Dark Water is published by Bloomsbury and is available here.

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Stuart Turton

Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, won the Costa First Novel Award and the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Best Novel, and was shortlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards and the British Book Awards Debut of the Year. A Sunday Times bestseller for three weeks, it has been translated into over thirty languages and has also been a bestseller in Italy, Russia and Poland. Stuart lives near London with his wife and daughter.

We also reviewed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and that can be viewed here.

Stuart Turton also has an exclusive short story in our charity anthology You Are Not Alone which is available here. All proceeds from the sale of this book are going to support The Big Issue Foundation, Shelter, Centrepoint and The Bristol Methodist Centre.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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