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The Devil and the Dark Water: A Locked-Room Historical Mystery Hardcover – October 6, 2020
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""[An] outstanding whodunit... Fans of impossible crime fiction won't want to miss this one."" - Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
"A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies." - Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review
"The Devil and the Dark Water artfully combines intriguing characters, fascinating historical details and a seafaring labyrinth of twists and turns-not to mention a demon named Old Tom...History and mystery lovers alike will delight in the heart-racing escapades of The Devil and the Dark Water." - BookPage, STARRED Review
"The locked room murder meets a Michael Bay movie, by way of Treasure Island; you can't know what's going on, if only because the author won't let you know until he's delivered the final surprise and another one after that. The effect is irresistible." - The Guardian
"If you read one book this year, make sure it's this one." - Daily Mail
"And unlike most whodunits I wouldn't recommend it for pre-lights-out reading not just because of the spooky bits, but because such a lovingly complex construct needs readers who are fully awake." - The Sunday Telegraph
"Turton has a fantastic time laying out the details of his intricate plot, leaving the reader wondering if it is something human or supernatural causing the devilry on the Saardam." - The Observer New Review
"A glorious mash-up of William Golding and Arthur Conan Doyle." - Val McDermid, #1 bestselling author
"An absolute treat from the most original voice in crime fiction." - Ragnar Jónasson, international bestselling author of Snowblind and The Island
"The Devil and the Dark Water is mind-bending, genre-bending, intricate, vivid, intelligent, and with one of the most gloriously grizzly cast of characters ever. An absolute razztwizzler of a novel." - Ali Land, author of Good Me, Bad Me
"[A] rousing, action-filled mystery." - Booklist
"An enjoyable throwback to the exaggeratedly intellectual plotting of Golden Age crime fiction." - Library Journal
"Stunningly good. A page-turning mystery on an epic scale, intricately plotted and expertly landed." - Simon Lelic, author of The Search Party
"A superb historical mystery: inventive, twisty, addictive and utterly beguiling. I fell for this book (and its characters) in a big way. Beautifully crafted escapism for fans of Sherlock and Master & Commander. A TRIUMPH." - Will Dean, author of Dark Pines
"The desperate life on board an Amsterdam-bound Dutch Indiamen has never been so vividly painted. Throw in a demon (who may or may not exist), a cast of beautifully realized, compelling characters, along with a series of locked room mysteries, and the result is one of the most extraordinary books being published this year." - M.W. Craven, author of The Puppet Show, winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award 2019
About the Author
- Publisher : Sourcebooks Landmark (October 6, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1728206022
- ISBN-13 : 978-1728206028
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.5 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #31,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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There are SO many horribly bad things about this book.
I wish I could list them all...
-- The unbearable Sherlockinsh psychic cliches ("I see there's yellow on your shoe... clearly you had a sandwich, which means you [insert a bunch of other random deductions] and therefore you must be a professional boxer." "What? wow! how did you know that!")
-- Apparently the totally protestant and Calvinist United Provinces who outlawed and banished all Catholicism is now filled with.... Catholics? With Rosaries? And who say "Mass"? And have the sacrament of Confession...? All things that would have caused a person in the United Provinces to be severely punished, banished, or burned at the stake. This is just insultingly lazy on the part of the author. He literally could have read ONE single paragraph from any article or encyclopedia entry on religion in this era and culture and avoided this. It's such a drastically erroneous oversight that it hugely impacts the believability of the fictional world the author is trying to immerse us in. This isn't one of those "slight details" that only anal people care about. This is the equivalent of a fiction novel taking place in 1950s Soviet Moscow, and all the inhabitants of the Kremlin are Libertarian Capitalists and attend Muslim Mosques on their lunch breaks. The whole "it's not a religious or historical novel" excuse simply doesn't work here.
-- The Cliche and absolutely absurd Scooby-Doo style ending is simply insulting to the reader's intelligence. The masks are ripped off and main characters were literally and randomly the opposite of themselves the entire time. Wow... how convenient and "shocking". Yeah... shocking... that's the word the Sheep will use when they praise the "twists" at the end.
--The revelation at the end that this entire multi-week elaborate and incredibly complex impossible charade made up of systems of systems and relying on hundreds of perfect tiny little variables, all of which would fail if one tiny thing had not gone to plan was all undertaken just so that the culprits could deal with a person "a certain way that would make them remember something" is just plain dumb and, again, insulting to the reader.
--The fact that the evil geniuses who put hundreds of lives (including innocent women and children) at risk and caused a lot of deaths are suddenly flipped into being the good guys and the protagonists who lived through it all suddenly forgive them and smirk about their absurd plans for more adventures in the future... just painfully dumb.
-- The book is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions from one chapter to the next: The guy with one eye suddenly has two eyes at one point... the guy with one hand has two at one point... a couple of the 7 ships sail ahead without permission before nightfall while theirs is anchored, but hours later at night the author forgets this and they're now talking about all 7 lanterns being visible plus an 8th... a retelling of an incident in europe in which a man was almost wrongfully executed but saved because Sammy rode up on a horse with the evidence in hand just in time, in front of the man about to be executed... is later retold but this time Sammy did NOT arrive in time and the wrongfully accused had to flee... there were so, so many little mistakes and contradictions like this... I should have written them all down)
--The main "hidden clue" that the entire plot and mystery hinges on is kept on something in plain sight but the characters are artificially made to ignore it or dismiss it.
--The old cliche of "the novel takes place in an old era, but all the main characters are internally "woke" young people from the 2020s and think and believe all the things people from 2020 believe, morally, socially, politically, philosophically, even scientifically and medically". This happens a lot in low quality writing and it's absolutely insulting and amateurish.
--Piggy-backing on the last point, the "unenlightenedness" of the era is vastly over-exaggerated and painfully inaccurate. Snobbish "enlightened" people have a tendency to fabricate overkill fantasies about gullible people believing in God or the Devil therefore descending into a frenzy in which entire towns kill each other due to superstitions, when in fact these things were almost unheard of. Apparently if a woman displays brilliance, or good ideas she's hated and beaten and potentially put to death. Yeah... that's definitely the norm. Stupid evil patriarchal males. Sorry but it's all just too cliche.
--Lot's of magical "potions" that can cure and do amazing things, cuz "science" and alchemy.
--Characters are painfully dull and 2-dimensional.
--The tendency to far over-exaggerate the evil of the main antagonist in stupidly cartoonish ways is always a sign of an amateur who has no idea how to make real characters.
--A very strange bizarre instance in which the book which had been moving at about a chapter per "in-story" hour was suddenly put into fast forward for an entire two-week period of "running from a storm" in which apparently nothing happened and the characters didn't get anywhere in unravelling the mystery... in two weeks. And suddenly we just pick up where we left off. Just bizarre.
-- Grammatical errors. Not a huge deal, but it adds to the pile.
-- The pure stupidity of some of the methods revealed at the end that were used to fake the spiritual experiences (yeah... they drilled holes that nobody noticed... that's how they all heard voices in their heads..." c'mon! It's not just thin, it's actually offensively insulting to the reader.
There was so much more wrong with this novel. So, so much. I should have kept a log while reading through it all. There are at least a dozen other bullet points I could list here but I've forgotten them.
I understand that a lot of the positive reviewers were fanboys of his first book, 7 1/2 Deaths (which also had an idiotic scooby doo style ending) and they feel emotionally bound to write praises for this one because of the "shocking twists" but please, think carefully before doing so. An 8 year old could have come up with these kinds of twists. A book needs to be more than that. And above all a book needs to respect the reader, not insult their intelligence. Fiction suffers overall when readers give authors a free pass because of "the halo effect" they earned from a previous (and admittedly good) novel. We need to hold authors to a higher standard. This kind of writing lowers that standard, not to mention threatens to lower the collective IQ of fiction readers in general if we all lie to ourselves and heap praises where praises aren't deserved.
I rarely write amazon reviews. But this one was so painfully bad and insulting to the reader that I had to. I realize this review will not be popular among the sheep.
Please... don't waste your time. Avoid this book.
The Plot: Samuel Pipps is the world's greatest detective in 1634, who has been imprisoned and taken to a ship setting sail for Amsterdam to serve time for his crimes, what ever thy are. Arent Hayes is Samuel's loyal bodyguard determined to protect him and prove his innocence, but before he can do that he has to stop a devil that boarded the transport ship. A leper warns the people boarding the Saaradam that Old Tom/ The Devil is a board this ship as he burns himself alive. When the leper is seen to they find his tongue had been severed and could not talk. Arent finds people willing to help but never knows who to trust as ghost and phantom boats lead to murder plot.
What I Liked: Really well written characters, both main and side. I was never confused with characters and there is an awful lot of them. The plot is really captivating and dealing with all the elements on a boat which is. character in it's self. The twist are very layered, I did not guess who the killer or killers was, and was guessing back and forth until it was revealed. That for me is a true sign of a great mystery. Women are written very well and hold there own being very clever at a time when they did not have power. Arent's character really grew on me and you can't help but root for him solving the mystery. It's great to see a big character not dumb who is still a gentle giant but a smart one. The going to the bathroom and what they wiped with on a ship at the time is pretty horrifying. The way the sailors are described - They’re only on this ship because they’d be hanged anywhere else.
What I Disliked: The story was always interesting, but it took a little bit for it to really get going. The after the climax ending felt unfinished, I felt the characters would definitively decide what was going to happen next, it left it mostly closed but there was still a crack that was left unclosed.
Recommendations: Check out the work of Stuart Turton great characters, really clever plot twist, that will have you guessing who done it until the end. The Devil and Dark Water is less confusing than the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle which was the main criticism for people who did not like it. This book is a lot more accessible and told in a more traditional mystery way than Hardcastle. I rated The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton 5 out of 5 stars. It is a little too soon to call Turton the king of new mystery, but he's off to a great start I eagerly anticipate his next work. I have rated all his works 5 out of 5 stars.
Top reviews from other countries
Forget completely the clanging historical inaccuracies (who cares, it's fiction), and just focus on the pathetically clunky storytelling, the risible characters (especially the women, who are described almost exclusively by their hair - blonde rivers, cascading curls, blah blah Jesus Christ this is beyond belief blah) and the bafflingly bad and and often nonsensical writing - eg a character (woman, natch) pulls a brush through her hair like "a carp swimming up a river" - ????
One of the big clue reveals in the "mystery" is, wait for it... an ANAGRAM. The sheer stupidity of the whole plot rendered me speechless. I read through to the end in a desperate attempt to see if the book could redeem itself at all, offer even the tiniest particle of believability or surprise. But: no. Suffice it to say that the denouement hinges on **SPOILER ALERT** smuggling a dwarf in a barrel (seriously), people pretending to be drugged (cue lots of "staggering"), the two people who look uncannily alike turning out to be related, the woman who never comes out of her room, refuses ever to be seen and bangs and saws things in the middle of the night turning out to be the culprit, and the mysterious cargo smuggled onto the boat under a shroud of secrecy being... TREASURE. Yes, treasure. Oh, and the criminal was able to climb up and down the hull of the boat because, guess what?, there had been a ladder built in.
There's a serious moral point though, as it turns out that burning people as witches is bad. Who'd have thought it. You heard it here, peeps: the 17th century witch hunts totally like sucked.
You think of all the talented authors who have revealed the difficulty they've had in getting their work published - this book is an insult to all of them, and to Bloomsbury's readers, really.
A ship named the Saardam is about to set sail on an arduous seven-month voyage for Amsterdam from Batavia. For some of the passengers, they are put up in luxury cabins, but the majority are staying in cramped and horrific conditions. But even before the voyage begins, there are rumours of a demon, known as ‘Old Tom.’ It is believed that this demon is already on board the ship. There are some who are desperate to make sure that this ship doesn’t sail. Right from the beginning, Stuart Turton creates a real sense of mystery and atmosphere. Is there really such a thing as ‘Old Tom?’ Or is this just the minds of some of the passengers going into overdrive? But it is clear to some that this ship will never reach its destination and danger awaits everyone on board. Soon mysterious things begin to happen, strange symbols start to appear, animals are slaughtered, and then a body is found. That makes everyone on this ship a suspect, and it also means that everyone else is in danger until they are caught.
Throughout the book, the pace never lets up. Stuart Turton has created a cast of characters who pull you into the story. They are all very different, and you get a real sense of palpable fear among them on board the ship. This is particularly when rumours about ‘Old Tom’ begin to swirl. It makes for some gripping reading. I began to wonder just how the passengers were going to react as the tension between them begins to grow. This is especially when they all begin to suspect each other of harbouring ‘Old Tom,’ and there are calls for executions. It appears to be the only way of making sure that ‘Old Tom,’ is vanquished once and for all.
Also onboard the ship is the world’s most famous detective, Samuel Pipps. However, he is incarcerated in chains when he first boards the ship. So when the strange happenings begin to occur on the Saardam, it is his assistant, Arent Hayes who has to do the investigating. This is what reminded me of the friendship between Watson and Sherlock Holmes as I was reading.
This book will definitely take you on a wild ride. I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for something original and totally unique, then this is the book for you. It is a read that you can purely escape in to. Stuart Turton is a master storyteller and plotter, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.