The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 1st October 2020 (Raven Books)
The Devil and the Dark Water is a Sherlockian masterpiece, darkly atmospheric and twisty as hell.
The past was filled with sharp things, he’d said. He couldn’t reach for a memory without drawing blood doing it.
The world’s greatest detective, Samuel Pipps, is being transported back to Amsterdam from Batavia (Indonesia), kept imprisoned in the dank depths of the ship for crimes unknown. His bodyguard, Arent Hayes, is determined to prove him innocent… if he can find out what his friend was guilty of in the first place. But his inquiries are put on hold when the brutal death of a leper turns out to be the first in a series of mysterious and deadly happenings.
With Pipps’ prodigious memory and unsurpassable detective skills out of action, the only recourse is for Hayes to step in and do what he can. These are no normal crimes, however, a devil may be loose in the world. Someone, or something, is playing for the highest stakes: the souls of everyone on board. Hayes, uncertain of his abilities and unsure who to trust, is running out time to figure it all out and save everyone from the most terrifying of fates.
For those, like me, who were more impressed with the ballsiness of the author for writing something like The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as a first novel than than the actuality of the story, this book is well worth a go. Like his first novel, this showcases Turton’s talent for the unusual, the complex, and the downright daring. However, it has a much stronger foundation, a labyrinthine but well-defined plot that leans a bit more towards historical crime fiction than the supernatural (though it has a big dollop of that too). In fact, there were a few moments when I was genuinely perturbed. The suspense is cleverly managed, developed through a number of compelling characters, who themselves are part of an extraordinary cast of misfits. They’re all so incredibly memorable, deftly described and oh so flawed.
When added to the roiling seas, the palpable sense of danger on the Saardam, and the intricacies of the relationships between the passengers, it’s literary dynamite. All the things you think you know, you don’t. And yes, to carry on that metaphor, the ending is explosive. It had me chuckling gleefully. I love being thoroughly bamboozled. Not only is it pure fun, it’s so much more satisfying than Turton’s first novel. I got to the end of that one and though ‘hmmm’, I got to the end of this one smiling like crazy and wishing it kept on for another few hundred pages or more.
If you’re looking for a good time, give this a go. Highly recommended.
ARC via Netgalley