... all about narrative pleasure. In the service of its high-speed, self-aware twists and turns, characters often talk as if they know they’re in a book, and are either nudging a forgetful reader or winking at a complicit one. They’ll undergo heavy-gauge backstory additions to fit them for a reveal or for their next set of tasks and excitements; our idea of the character as we already know them will conflict for a page or two with their new demeanour, then succumb as our sympathies tilt to accommodate. This helps the author convey the emotional charge of each scene in a quick-and-dirty fashion ... Events approach at dizzying speeds and recede almost immediately into the distance, decaying into the fog of battle and shipwreck. 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. Turton has got his world up and running inside the first two pages; thereafter, deceptions and diversions multiply until the ultimate, outrageous reveal, at which point the dark water turns out to be rather darker than you imagined.
The Devil and the Dark Water lies between genres — it is a mystery with an occult MacGuffin, a demonic symbol that bodes ill for a group of travelers aboard a United East India Company galleon ... The Devil and the Dark Water like Turton’s first novel, The 7½ Deaths of Eleanor Hardcastle is compulsively readable, slightly over the top and more interested in the mysteries of character and mise-en-scène than the rigors of plot. The horror elements are entertaining rather than terrifying, perfect for readers who like a little occult with their mystery but dare not get entangled in anything too scary. While there were times when I felt the novel unfolded a bit too slowly — it is 463 pages, and could easily have been shorter — Pipps and Hayes are such charming company that I was happy to travel with them for the extended journey.
... artfully combines intriguing characters, fascinating historical details and a seafaring labyrinth of twists and turns ... There is never a dull moment in this 480-page whodunit, but readers will be thankful not to be physically aboard for the grueling journey ... A trio of women (the captain’s wife, daughter and mistress) are also sleuthing, adding a refreshingly feminine twist to this Sherlock Holmes-styled mystery. Turton’s characterizations dovetail nicely with his careful, clever plotting. Meanwhile, he uses history to his advantage, adding dollops of commentary on women’s rights, class privilege and capitalism that lend the novel a contemporary vibe ... History and mystery lovers alike will delight in the heart-racing escapades.
... breaks barriers in terms of location, character development, point of view, and much-needed humour mixed in throughout this dark and twisted mystery ... enough twists and turns throughout each chapter of the novel that proves to keep the reader interested until the very end. Like authors such as Stephen King and Agatha Christie, Turton is able to convince readers of many characters’ innocence, even if they may not be innocent at all ... Turton is able to continuously push the suspicion from one character to another throughout the novel, ultimately causing the reader much difficulty in finding a reliable narrator. With some comedic aspects sprinkled in with the action and mystery, Turton continuously keeps readers’ attention and wondering who, exactly, is the cause of this chaos ... proves to be a novel all kinds of readers will enjoy. There are important social themes such as feminism and tyranny present throughout the text including fierce women characters like Sara and her daughter Lia who push for female equality throughout ... While many of the characters are well developed, witty, and even a little untrustworthy, there is still room for some of the characters to be developed even more by the end of the novel. Sammy and Arent’s story is only briefly explained in the text and it would have been helpful to understand just how deep their friendship goes ... a thrilling take of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and just how far some people will go to protect the innocent. Avid mystery readers and new mystery readers alike will find something they like about this novel, whether it be the relationships characters form between themselves or the constant twists and turns that entice them to continue turning the pages.
There’s no fear of ‘second album syndrome’ with this novel. Turton continues to prove that he is a fabulous storyteller with a genuine imaginative flair ... a delightful read, retaining the magical genre bending thrills that made The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so entertaining but this story is set half a world and several centuries away from his much lauded debut. This is an epic, a chunky escapist adventure set on the high seas with a wonderful cast of characters and a plot that captivates and beguiles ... a rambunctious affair that involves the occult, superstition, a ship wreck, revenge served as a cold dish, mutiny, an atrocity, the possibility of atonement, convenient alliances and a revisiting of the sins of the past. All imagined from the true story of a ship wreck given a fantastical rebirth. Arent and Pipps are forerunners of Watson and Holmes; there’s plenty of clever detective work, sleight of hand, clues and red herrings – you may think you know what is going on but…
... riveting and highly immersive ... reads like a Sherlock Holmes mystery populated by characters from an Agatha Christie novel and set inside a game of Clue ... Sara is a perfect complement to Arent: soft where he is hard, quick-thinking where he is slow, and completely sure of herself where he is insecure. Together the two make an enviable crime-stopping duo, with Sara quickly becoming my favorite Turton character yet ... Sara is everything I could have hoped for in a book like this ... Readers of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will not be surprised by Turton’s ability to weave complex and intricate mysteries, but I suspect that even those who expect greatness from his sophomore release will be surprised by how much he has grown and matured as a writer. Where his debut was inventive and genre-bending, this latest effort is every bit as technically brilliant, but even more fleshed out and beautifully described. I had forgotten about his ability to skillfully expose his characters’ innermost fears and ambitions without information-dumping, but I was quickly reminded of his talent when I felt as though I knew about the motives of each and every character only a few chapters in. Rather than spoiling the surprises of the plot, these character reveals allowed me to fully immerse myself in the mystery of the book, and I loved guessing who would do what next ... Turton is an inventive and vivid storyteller, and while it should come as no shock that he excels at pacing and dealing out suspenseful plot twists, I found that The Devil and the Dark Water also exposed his ability to fully immerse readers within the narrative. Whether describing life on the Saardam or the body of a twice-killed leper, he has an innate ability to charm, scare and tease you all at once --- and that’s before you even get to marvel at his superb plotting and plain genius. If a mad scientist was set loose on a board game after reading nothing but the best mystery stories for a month, you would have as close to Stuart Turton as I think we will ever see again. But if you can’t pull those materials together, just go out and buy this book. You will not regret it.
Blended with elements of mystery and high seas adventure, Turton’s second book is an enjoyable throwback to the exaggeratedly intellectual plotting of Golden Age crime fiction, not terribly believable but great fun to read.
The Devil and the Dark Water is pretty close to perfect – a masterfully woven mystery that harks back to the very best of (yes I’m going to say it) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (that’s right I went there because the comparisons are valid) as Turton delivers us a beguiling mystery that has the reader enraptured from the very first page to the very last. His story is wrapped in elegant prose, memorable characters and a skill that if you were reading the book without knowing who wrote it you would think it was a long lost manuscript from the master of mystery himself Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
Stuart Turton is a good storyteller. When the mysteries were finally unravelled, I was disappointed – not so much by the implausible solutions but by fact that the story had come to an end. It had all been good, easy reading and devilishly puzzling fun.
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.
A marked departure from Turton’s debut, this is a rousing, action-filled mystery. With a reading-group guide and a short author interview appended, it’s tailor-made for book groups with a taste for bloody adventure.
Turton brings a pointed social conscience to bear in his commentary on the ill treatment of women and the exploitation of the lower class...With all its characters, hidden identities, and backstories, this epic sometimes sags ... But Turton has a colorful tale to tell and does so in highly entertaining fashion ... A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.
... outstanding ... As Turton ratchets up the tension en route to the brilliant resolution of the plot, he keeps readers in doubt as to whether a rational explanation is possible. Fans of impossible crime fiction won’t want to miss this one.