Last year I read and reviewed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It was at the beginning of my book blogging time so my review style has certainly changed but thankfully Stuart Turton’s writing ability has only improved in the time since he wrote his debut novel. His second book, The Devil and The Dark Water, is very different, but has that wonderful genre-defying quality that is unique to his writing. This book could be filed under several different genres and none would completely sum up the total brilliance of it.
I pre-ordered the physical copy of this book, but because of my problems with my eyes and migraines currently, I listened to about half of it as an audiobook. This really worked in my favour as it meant I got to experience both any pronunciations I might have otherwise struggled with, but also the general genius of the narrator, who was born to read such books. I’ve been really lucky recently with the narrators of audiobooks that I’ve listened to, and this is just one more to chalk up to brilliant pairing between book and performer.
The book starts in a high intensity situation, on a walk towards the docks. Arent Hayes is doing his very best to protect his close friend, and now prisoner, Samuel Pipps, from the rocks that are being aimed at him by the jeering crowds. They are making their way towards the Saardam, ready for transportation from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, along with many others, but Pipps is the only prisoner. On arrival in Amsterdam he faces trial and probably execution for a crime he may or may not have committed. As the best known detective, even he is baffled as to what charges may be laid against him. Arent, despite his friend’s insistence, refuses to leave his side, and is taking the journey alongside him in a desperate attempt to figure out what he is accused off – and stop it, if he can.
The journey to the docks is eventful for other reasons – and characters – too, and is a great way of introducing us to the cast of people we will be faced with in what is essentially a locked room mystery, onboard the ship. There are some you will love and some you will love to hate, exactly what is needed for such an adventure, and such a novel.
Included in the physical book is a map of the ship and a list of notable characters, both of which come in useful when trying to solve the mysteries that the book provides. There are several moments that make no sense whatsoever, and it’s all about taking each page as it goes along, waiting for it to be slowly pieced together. It’s a brilliant novel, both as a mystery and as a work of fiction, plain and simple – mainly because it isn’t plain and simple. It’s perfect if you like something to keep your mind engaged, wonderful if you like a locked room mystery, and excellent if you love a well written book.
Just as The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle ended up in my top reads of last year, this will easily be in my top reads of 2020. It’s hard to write too much about it without giving too much away, but it is one of the most compelling, brilliant books I’ve read in a long time.
No pressure on the author, but this will be hard to top. Book three sometime soon please Stuart?