Overall Rating: 4/5
The Devil and the Dark Water has it all – a good old fashioned murder mystery, a foreboding merchant ship, and a divided microcosm of 1634 society that embarks upon an exceptionally dangerous voyage, setting up a thrilling adventure on the high seas that is sure to transport you outside of your cozy reading nook. Samuel Pipps, a renowned detective, is on board the Saardam and set to be executed upon arrival in Amsterdam, but a frightening omen prior to departure threatens the already treacherous journey. As the ship experiences disaster after disaster, it is up to Pipps’ bodyguard Arent to investigate the strange events and ensure the safety of the ship. Action-packed and highly engaging, The Devil and the Dark Water is the escape novel you have been searching for.
This book took me a little time to get into – there are a lot of characters introduced upfront in addition to the considerable attention Sturton lends to laying out the setting. The vivid imagery and detailed characterization serves to transport readers into the story, and once the suspense does start building, it’s hard to put this book down. Every type of character that you would expect is in this book – you have the headstrong, rebellious women, religious zealots, raunchy sailors, and corrupt nobles who all comprise the dynamic motley that is the backbone of the novel. The writing and dialogue itself is easy to follow and understand despite the time-period that the story is set in, but don’t worry, there is plenty of sailing jargon to make you feel the salt water spraying on your hair.
Given that the book is on the longer side, some of the character relationships could have been developed a little bit more. As the tale was reaching its crescendo, it felt like many plot points were culminating at the same time that could have been spread out or paced better. Similarly, the ending of the book itself was a little too neat and tidy, and did not feel cohesive with the darkness of the rest of the novel.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in mystery/thriller or historical fiction – it’s not a quick one-two sitting read but one that can feel quite transformative if savored over a longer period of time. It had me craving a cruise or beach vacation, but this will have to do for now!