Three impossible crimes
Two unlikely detectives
One deadly voyage
It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of.
But no sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails. A figure stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft.
Then: an impossible murder.
With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy?
Well I certainly ventured out of my comfort zone reading this. If you would have told me I would read a story set on a ship called the Saardam sailing under the Dutch East Indian Company and drawing on trading adventures in the 1630s, I would have laughed. But I loved Turton’s debut novel so much (my review here) that I was curious and I wanted to give it a chance, and by giving it a chance in I mean I even bought the hardback (and I never buy hardbacks) because I believed the 552 pages could only be fully appreciated between a hard cover.
Overall I can say that I enjoyed reading The Devil and the Dark Water but I didn’t love it as much as I loved this author’s debut novel. In all fairness I don’t think anybody can deliver such a mindblowing job twice though.
The author did try to make his second book intriguing by introducing quite a big cast in his new novel too. The names and professions of the key players were listed before the first chapter which was a good idea to start with (and I absolutely loved the map of the ship drawn inside the book flap) but while I was reading I noticed there wasn’t much other than their professions to distinguish the different characters (Guard Captain, Governer General, Chamberlain, boatswain, Chief Merchant, Captain) and I struggled a little to figure out what each of them did on that ship exactly and Drecht and Vos for example seemed interchangeable so after a while I tried not to think too deeply about the who’s who.
I did love Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel. The governer general’s wife was undaunted and brave and a perfect partner in crime for Hayes. There was a great balance between both of them while they worked on trying to figure out more about who the leper was who warned them that the ship would never reach its destination, what this mysterious folly was (I did feel frustrated at times that it was shrouded in so much mystery for sooo long) and where it was kept and if ‘Old Tom’ really was on the ship.
I enjoyed the mystery but the revelations came quite late so I liked the last part of the novel where all the answers were finally revealed most of all. The author is skilled at working a complex plot and it gave me little vibes of Agatha Christie in the end so that certainly made me appreciate it.
I survived this quite well I think so even though it’s not a favourite I will keep an eye out for his next novel.
I bought a hardback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.