The Devil and the Dark Water is a historical mystery with hints of the supernatural. Set in 1634, the action takes place on board the Saardam on a voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam. Among the passengers is Samuel Pipps (a 17th century Sherlock Holmes) who is being transported to his execution. He's accompanied by his loyal bodyboard, Arent Hayes. As soon as the ship sets sail, things start going wrong. The ghost of a dead leper stalks the decks, strange symbols appear on the sails and carved into the ship's timbers, and livestock is mysteriously slaughtered. Could there be a demon living amongst the ship's passengers and crew? With Samuel imprisoned below deck, all lives depend on Arent solving the mystery...
The Devil and the Dark Water is thoroughly gripping. I was sucked into the story, reading it very quickly, desperate to find out how it ended. The amount of historical detail about life on board the Saardam is incredible - I was living that voyage along with those unfortunate passengers. And I loved the rather sweet character of Arent, who keeps his honour when all those about him are losing theirs yet still doubts his ability to solve the mystery without the help of his good friend Samuel.
Anyone who enjoys intricately plotted historical mysteries, with complex characters that leap off the page, will love The Devil and the Dark Water. For me, the only thing that stopped it being a five-star read was what happened after the mystery was solved. That's just a personal niggle because otherwise I thoroughly recommend the book - and that cover is gorgeous!
Thank you to Stuart Turton and Raven Books (Bloomsbury) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.