Devil and the Dark Water
by Turton, Stuart

"Samuel Pipps is the greatest detective of his day...but now he's a prisoner, accused of an unknown crime by one of the world's most powerful men. Along with his faithful sidekick, Arent Hayes, they're sailing back to Amsterdam from the East Indies, where he'll stand trial. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Still shackled in his cell, Pipps sends Hayes to solve a mystery that connects every passenger on board. All hope is pinned on Hayes solving the mystery, but when he goes missing, Pipps is faced with the most dangerous puzzle of his career...All the while, voices whisper to him in the dark. But are those whispers clues? Warnings? Or the devil himself..."-

The eight-month voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam in 1634 is always perilous, and, as the Saardam prepares to sail, a leper sounds a warning that this trip will end very badly for all aboard. Passengers include Governor General Jan Haan, who is intending to be made a ruler of the United East Indian Company in Amsterdam; his wife, Sara Wessel; his daughter, Lia; and mistress, Cressjie Jens. Also on board are noted mystery solver Samuel Pipps, currently imprisoned, and his bodyguard and apprentice, Lieutenant Arent Hayes. The ship soon appears to be inhabited by the demon Old Tom, whose sign-an eye with a tail-was on its sail and now is found everywhere aboard, as the demon whispers nightly to crew and passengers, offering to fulfill their desires if they follow him. The Saardam faces natural as well as supernatural forces as a mysterious ship trails it, and the body count mounts. A marked departure from Turton's debut (7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, 2018), 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. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

After an outbreak of ghastly events aboard the Saardam, a merchant vessel returning from the East Indies to Amsterdam in 1634, fear spreads that an evil spirit is responsible. Before the ship's departure, a leper issued a stark warning about the "merciless ruin" that awaited it—and then burst into flames. Only prisoner Sammy Pipps, an alleged British spy with uncanny powers of deduction, took the threat seriously. Soon enough at sea, on a vessel populated by "murderers, cutpurses and malcontents," throats are slit, bodies are stashed, and dark secrets are exposed. Ultimately, a monster storm upends the Saardam and destroys two other ships in the fleet. Amid the evil doings, human decency is largely limited to Sammy's bodyguard, Arent Hayes, a physically imposing specimen with a kind soul and a "poisoned" past, and healer Sara Wessel, abused wife of soulless Governor General Jan Haan, who happens to be Arent's uncle. With their congenial Holmes and Watson act, Sammy and Arent seem on track to emerge as the heroes of this perpetually revealing tale. But Turton, who brings a pointed social conscience to bear in his commentary on the ill treatmen t of women and the exploitation of the lower class, has something else in mind. With all its characters, hidden identities, and backstories, this epic sometimes sags. As one character declares, "There are too many damn secrets on this ship, and I swear all of them are marching toward him with swords in their hands." But Turton, whose brain-twisting first novel, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018), posed knotty challenges for readers, has a colorful tale to tell and does so in highly entertaining fashion. A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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