The Devil and the Dark Water

Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water
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The Devil and the Dark Water

Stuart Turton

The extraordinary new novel from Stuart Turton, author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, winner of the Costa Best First Novel Award.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia. But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage.

A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night. And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…


In the seventeenth century, the East India Trading Company has a tight grip on the world. Those who sail as merchants rule absolutely, and everyone who works for them is ruthless, amoral, and evil. Sailors, in turn, are the worst of people: those who cannot find work on land because of past misdemeanours. Superstition runs unfettered through everybody who travels by water. And into this month’s crime reads The Devil and the Dark Water sails, its captain ready to guide you whichever way he pleases.

The Saardam is on its way from Batavia (now Jakarta) to Amsterdam, its hold full of spices and cargo – both known and unknown. Even before it leaves port, a leper with no tongue curses the ship and bursts into flames. But the ship’s master is not swayed. Jan Haan, the Governor-General of Batavia, sails home with a plan for glory and a family he abuses. His wife, Sara, is used to restrictive confines. His daughter, Lia, knows how to hide her true self. His mistress, Creesjie, is there to keep him happy. Then there are the soldiers, the musketeers, the sailors, the nobles – a cast of characters that fill your reading room with their voices. Prominent among them are human mountain Arent Hayes and pre-Sherlock Sammy Pipps, both detectives of great repute – until Pipps is thrown unceremoniously into a tiny cell on the Saardam for a crime nobody knows anything about.

As the curse works its way through the ship, with unholy miracles apparently occurring under the doomed auspices of a mysterious demon named Old Tom, the entire vessel becomes a wretched place of filth and bitterness, fear and confusion, and soon nobody expects to survive the trip. Sara and Arent, united in a quest for justice, will do all they can to figure out what is going on, and readers will be right there with them: the deck creaking underneath your feet, the storms battering your porthole, the world swaying as you read through the book’s twisting plot, your life in Stuart Turton’s hands. Revel in it, and don’t sleep without a candle lit. You never know who might be whispering in the shadows.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also the bestselling author of the acclaimed How To Make a Movie in 12 Days, and How To Write the Soundtrack To Your Life.

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