The Devil and the Dark Water
By Stuart Turton
(463 pages, mystery, 2020)
The Devil and the Dark Water is a delightful take on the classic locked-room mystery — with this “locked room” taking the form of a Dutch East India trading ship traveling from Batavia (present-day Indonesia) to Amsterdam.
No sooner has the galleon left port, than the strange goings-on begin. A supposedly-dead leper appears out of nowhere and curses all aboard to a watery doom during their eight-month voyage. Chaos continues to unfold, and several passengers work to unravel the whodunit through a series of breathless plot twists.
Clues point to a demonic figure named Old Tom as the orchestrator … but does Old Tom even exist, and if so, how would he possibly be apprehended? The colorful cast of characters includes Samuel Pipps, a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective imprisoned on the ship and awaiting trial in Holland; his sidekick and “muscle,” Arent Hayes; and noblewoman and healer Sara Wessel, who brings a feminist flair into the mix. The story feels surprisingly modern, considering the 17th century setting, and includes enough humor and romance to keep the tone relatively light.
It is a credit to the author that I was kept guessing until the very end.
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Faithe Miller Lakowicz