book review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton | BookBrowse

Bloomsbury, 2020

In 1634 on the day that world famous detective Samuel Pipps is set to board the Sardaam from Batavia to Amsterdam in handcuffs, the ship is approached by a leper who climbs atop a crate to declare a frightening prophecy: “The Sardaam‘s cargo is sin, and all who board her will be brought to merciless ruin. She will not reach Amsterdam.” The man then bursts into flames and dies moments later, at which time it’s discovered that, despite the prophecy he just announced, he has no tongue.

While the opening of this standalone mystery is explosive, The Devil and the Dark Water is a slow burner. It mostly follows Arent, Samuel Pipps’ bodyguard, a gruff yet honorable man intent on proving the innocence of his accused employer. It also follows Sara Wessel, a noblewoman trapped in an abusive marriage hoping to make a new life for herself in Amsterdam. The two form an unlikely friendship as the ship comes under siege by dark forces in the form of a demon called Old Tom that has a terrifying link to Arent’s past.

You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about the Dutch East India Trading Company HERE.

18 thoughts on “book review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton | BookBrowse

    • (Sorry, super late comment!) Oh yes this one definitely sounds like an improvement! There’s a lot going on but you can absolutely keep track of all the moving pieces. I’ve been on the fence about whether to pick up his debut, I’ve heard THE MOST polarizing things…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, late comment is late, sorry!

      God I am so on the fence with you and this book. I think it’s worth a try and you’ll know within 2 chapters whether or not it will work for you. Because on the one hand it’s VERY Agatha Christie and that’s just lovely, and on the other hand… historical fiction. It’s SO historical. The slowness is like… it’s slow but steady! I enjoyed reading it at a meandering pace; it was never a chore to pick up or a slog to read, but it IS slow. So it’s hard!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do think I still want to try this. Maybe not anytime soon because I am not good with slow at the moment. But it does sound like something that I could adore against all odds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think so too. There are SO many ‘Hannah would hate this’ elements but I still did not find myself thinking ‘Hannah would hate this’ when I was reading.


  1. Great review, this sounds really promising! Slow burn isn’t always my taste but a brilliant ending that rewards attention to detail sounds worth waiting for. Clever mysteries that manage to provide the clues but hide them effectively are just my sort. Glad you liked this one!

    Liked by 1 person

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