The Devil and the Dark Water
By: Stuart Turton
My Rating: Four out of Five Stars
Best for: 18 and up
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a happy surprise. It’s Groundhog Day + Quantum Leap + Agatha Christie, and if you haven’t read it, you need to. It was so good, in fact, that when I learned Stuart Turton’s sophomore effort would be another closed-door mystery–this time set on a merchant ship at sea in the 1600’s–I accidently let in that dangerous emotion we book lovers live for and dread with equal measure:
Anticipation has been known to kill dreams of book nerds. No matter how powerful your commitment to not letting it in, it sneaks into your cracks, lodges in your guts, and grows until it gets what it wants: the next book. Because obviously it’s going to be just as good! Well, either that or it’s going to crumble under the overweight expectations and kill you dreams.
So? Did The Devil and the Dark Water kill my dreams?
It did not!
There’s a lot to like in The Devil and the Dark Water for fans of who-done-it stories. This mystery pits the wits of our heroes against the dark forces of a demon who’s chosen to wreak havoc, spread terror, and sow distrust among the passengers of the merchant vessel Saardam during their 8-month journey from Batavia (modern day Jayakarta) to Amsterdam.
The murders start before the ship even leaves the dock, the mysteries pile up quickly, and I loved collecting the clues and trying to figure out the secrets before the bad guys finished off the good guys. The darkness gets darker as the pages turn, and by the climax I was glued to the pages and I still couldn’t figure out how all the pieces fit. And when it was finally revealed, I was glad to be perfectly surprised.
You might call The Devil and the Dark Water historical fiction, but there is much more fiction than history. This was an intentional move by the author, who claimed some of the historical accuracy got in the way of the story. That’s probably okay…but it would have been even cooler if he could have found a way to merge the history and the fiction and the mystery. That’s a minor gripe, though. The intriguing plot more than made up for the shortcomings.
No language concerns, but it’s pretty spooky. There is strong violence and one uncomfortable sex scene. This book is best for 18 and up.