Novel Approach: Bestselling author Stuart Turton returns with highstakes seafaring mystery

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —Edmund Burke

Philosophers have always puzzled over the nature of humanity, John Locke believed people were innately good while Thomas Hobbs took the more cynical approach that people were not innately good and only behaved due to societal rules. While both philosophers offer interesting points, the basic ideas fail to incorporate how fear can affect behavior. Our latest read takes us to the high seas as a merchant ship finds itself plagued by a devil or perhaps a nefarious person.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

From the mind behind the mindblowing mystery “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,” Stuart Turton captivates readers with his new seafaring mystery “The Devil and the Dark Water” as the passengers on a merchant ship find themselves at great peril.

In 1634, the passengers are preparing to board a ship when a leper threatens those preparing to travel on the ship before bursting into flames. The only person who could possibly solve the case, Sammy Pipps, is in manacles at the governor general’s orders and urges his friend and assistant, Arent, to investigate the leper’s claims. Sara, the governor general’s wife, breaks convention and tries to aid the burning leper and ends up forming a connection with the detective’s assistant. On the ship, the leper’s threats come to fruition and it appears that a devil is tormenting the passengers and crew aboard the ship leaving only Sara and Arent to investigate who is behind it all.

Turton’s sophomore novel is an inventive and brilliantly crafted tale as his rich characters work to understand what is happening aboard their doomed ship. The story is narrated through multiple perspectives allowing readers to sink deeper and deeper into this Sherlockian mystery with an occult twist. As the plot progresses, Turton’s novel examines how people don’t need the meddling of a devil to conduct evil acts. Each character (and there are plenty of them) has a distinct voice and motive for bringing a devil aboard the ship as Turton’s brisk pace leaves readers breathlessly turning the page to discover what will happen next on this ill-fated voyage and to discover if the danger was conjured by a devil or simply manmade.

“The Devil and the Dark Water” will be published on Oct. 6.

From the book jacket…

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night.

And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

If you enjoy…

Readers who fell in love with Turton’s inventive and puzzling storytelling might enjoy picking up a classic Agatha Christie tale or two like “Murder on the Orient Express.” For mystery fans who have already devoured Christie’s work, Lucy Foley’s latest thriller “The Guest List” is a breakneck thriller about a wedding marred by murder.