Title: The Devil And The Dark Water
Author: Stuart Turton
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: November 29th 2020
“Questions are swords and answers are shields.”
This was a buddy read with Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog, and it turned out to be another absolute winner! We had a fantastic time reading this story, discussing possible suspects and plot twists along the way on Twitter and of course being almost completely wrong about everything in the end. What a read! This story is without doubt one of my reading highlights of the year, and I already can’t wait whatever story Stuart Turton comes up with next. And of course we have already decided to buddy read his next title too even without knowing a title or what it’s about. Yes, such is the power of his writing!
I’m going to keep this review short, both because this is one of those stories where it’s best to go in blind and because The Devil And The Dark Water gave me such a ginormous book hangover that I’m still lost for words 10 days after I finished it. What is clear as soon as you start reading this story that it is impossible to put it inside a neat little genre box. Is it historical fiction? Yes. It is a murder mystery? Yes. Is there a supernatural angle? Yes. Will there be romance? Also yes. And pirates? Oh yes. The Devil And The Dark Water is the most delightful mix of different genres and elements that together make the perfect cocktail for what is without doubt one of my absolute top reads of the year.
I think one of the things that I loved most about this story was the 17th century setting in Batavia and on the Saardam ship. The detail that has gone into describing the setting, the different characters and historical elements really shows that Stuart Turton has investigated extensively before writing, and although he says that this story brings the fiction in historical fiction, despite the liberties taken it still feels truly authentic. The many Dutch and foreign names added that feel of authenticity as well, even though they can be hard to pronounce for most (even I had problems with some of them!).
There are many different characters in play and this might be a bit of a juggle, but I personally loved getting to know them better over time and we both soon had our favorites. There are so many plot twists and secrets involved and even though it is nearly impossible to guess how this story will end or where things will go, the journey itself is extremely satisfying alone. The supernatural element really took this story to the next level for me as well, as it keeps you guessing about what is really going on on the ship and if Old Tom is just superstition or really a demon on the warpath…
I had an absolute fantastic time buddy reading this story with Nicki, and I never would have guessed how The Devil And The Dark Water would finish. My jaw literally dropped to the floor when I was reading the final chapters, unable to pace myself as I just HAD to know the ending. It’s a fantastic story that refuses to be placed inside a genre box, and a book I cannot recommend enough… Like I said before: an inevitable title on my best of 2020 list!