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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Selected for the BBC Two Book Club Between the Covers and the Radio 2 Jo Whiley Book Club.

Shortlisted for The Books Are My Bag Fiction Award.

An impossible murder

A remarkable detective duo

A demon who may or may not exist

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....

From the author of the dazzling The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, winner of the Costa Best First Novel Award, comes an audacious and original new high concept murder mystery.

©2020 Stuart Turton (P)2020 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"If you read one book this year, make sure it’s this one." (Daily Mail)

"A superb historical mystery: inventive, twisty, addictive and utterly beguiling.... A TRIUMPH." (Will Dean) 

"A glorious mash-up of William Golding and Arthur Conan Doyle." (Val McDermid)

What listeners say about The Devil and the Dark Water

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Different that Stuart Turton’s first novel

Another great book from Stuart Turton. Very different story but kept me hooked from the first! Well written and great twist at the end!

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Not bad

Honestly I did not get pulled into this as quickly as I did with the Seven Deaths but it is a solid piece of writing with complex characters and an even more complex story. I will remain a fan of Stuart Turton and look forward to his next book. The narration for this book was good and suited the style of writing.

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Mystery on the high seas

The Wreck of the Batavia meets Sherlock Holmes. if you like either of these two things you'll love this book. Another wonderful book by Stuart Turton.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-12-2021

Good, but slightly underwhelming

I read the seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and knew I had to read this immediately, hoping I would love it as much as I loved the previous book. Though the setting, the plot, and the characters are all well developed, I found myself loosing interested in the middle section of the book. The rhythm of the events is a lot slower than I anticipated, so the mystery doesn’t feel as engaging as one would hope. Despite some faults in the construction of the mystery, I enjoyed the book, and found the prose elegant and captivating.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-09-2021

Not as good as I wanted it to be

I really liked 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and I was sure that I am going to love this one, but the book was rather a disappointment.
Partially it was due to the narrator. He was mumbling at some points and I had problems with understanding him.
But honestly, plot was also not to my liking - I found it quite unbelievable. Also, characters were not really well developed and - apart from Arent - they seemd inconsistent in their behaviour.
I didn't care about the ending either. Seriously, what was that?

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  • @the real Tom byrne
  • 29-06-2021

I liked the setting

pretty good story kept you guessing some of it a bit cute but forgivable. quite violent.

the narrator mispronounced forecastle which, as the setting is largely on a ship came up an awful lot.

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  • manesh pillay
  • 07-06-2021

great book

enjoyed the twist. he writes well. images stick in head.plot drags you in. nice to follow his other book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-03-2021

My new favourite author!

After listening to his first book (7 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle) I thought I’d give this book a try.

It’s everything I look for in a mystery novel, exciting, unexpected, different and with a satisfying conclusion that wraps all the pieces up.

I love Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes as well, and I’m happy to hear Stuart Turton takes inspiration from them.

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  • Theodora Clark
  • 12-11-2020

Disappointing

I loved seven deaths! It's honestly one of my favourite books, I loved the mix of Agatha Christie style murders and groundhog day! So when I heard Mr Turton has written another book I was so excited. After a few hours of listening I was a bit disappointed, Nothing had gripped me, It was a Sherlock Holmes book set on a boat where Watson does the detecting, But I persevered. The narrator is good but the story is dull and to my horror after waiting for 15 hours for the denouement of the story the ending was awful! I love mystery books and films because I love trying to work out the puzzle, but as things were being explained as to how to murders were committed, it became clear to me that there was no way for a reader to have guessed the outcome, it was just a "haha don't you feel stupid for not thinking of this" and I was like "not really as I didn't get the whole view of the story" key details of the murders were missed out so the audience would have no grasp on what or how things were being done.

I also found moments quite unnecessarily brutal. Not to give too much away but I found it quite sickening when all of a sudden the main character is convinced by a man who is clearly "the bad guy" to enforce prostitution and gang rape of the female passengers. The character suggesting it is clearly "the bad guy" so if this scene was introduced to convince the audience that we shouldn't root for this man it was already obvious. There was no need for this scene, It was grotesques and unnecessary. After reading the authors notes at the end of the book I find out that the story is loosely based on a ship from Australia where some of the events from the book had happened. However not the vast majority of the events from the book, Literally the similarities are three events in a book over 10 hours long, So to include that scene was, I thought, unnecessary, Not to mention it is using the "women being threatened with rape" cliche to show how honourable the main character is for not wanting to do that. Which frankly is outmoded and should not be welcome in modern society storytelling. I really think Mr Turton should revaluate using the rape of women as a plot devise.
FURTHERMORE, IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLOT! It was literally mentioned in a chapter and then not mentioned again! It was so unnecessary! It has really stuck with me and made me feel quite uncomfortable.
I would not recommend this book.
I guess if you like sherlock holmes and being kept in the dark for over 10 hours of storytelling it would be good for you.

71 people found this helpful

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  • R Longwood
  • 23-01-2021

Frustratingly jarring

Julian Rhind-Tutt gives perfect narration to this story. It's hard to believe at times that the same man is bringing life to the cast of different characters, he provides a unique voice and nuanced performance for each. On top of that he has such a wonderful voice, listening to him is a pleasure.

I cannot give the same unequivocal praise to the story itself. While there were some moments of masterful story telling, it was let down by a number of issues.

Firstly, there was some really poor grammar throughout the story. Frequently ending sentences with prepositions was the most jarring. This is so annoying and so easy to fix. It felt as though the story had been written in a rush and lacked polish.

It also contained some genuinely bad writing. I am not sure to what extent this story was meant to be historically accurate. There are times when it appears to be well researched (nautical elements, etc) and constrained by historical accuracy. At other times this is thrown out of the window for a tale that could have tumbled from a fantasy novel. This is particularly evident in the behaviour of the female characters; during the big reveal and in the choice of language. For example, 17th century characters saying "OK" is really jarring.

Careless mistakes litter the writing. A character spits out rancid food but in the next sentence is washing it down with wine. There are silly, clumsy moments. At one point a character is discussing sailors' charms and it's framed as though the whole crew has been listening to the narrator because as the character turns around, the whole crew is stood there bandishing a charm.

Turton clearly has talent but this story felt careless and rushed, especially when contrasted against the nuanced and evocative prose that shone through at other moments. At one point there is an amazing description of how a character had become possessed by the power of the ocean that genuinely gave me shivers. The morally ambiguous characterisation of the sailors and then realistic depiction of their horrific lives is far more interesting than the unambiguous goodness of our stock character leads.

The characterisation is poor at times. I was so bored and irritated by the constant harping on about the incredible talents of Sammy Pips - which we rarely saw in practice. What happened to show, don't tell? Our lead characters fawn over him, singing his praises relentlessly, to the point that it becomes nauseating. He is a cookie cutter Sherlock Holmes with an unlikely (perhaps even umbelievale) Dr Watson penning his tales and fanning their fame.

Sara is another irritating clichè. A strong willed, red headed woman, a self professed healer, perfect mother and abused wife. She would choose freedom and love over wealth and security. She possesses a shining compassion and humanity that is utterly devoid in those around her. It's too much. She is too perfect, like a male fantasy. Her husband and chief antagonist, the Governor General, is equally clichèd. The dark mirror to Sara, he is brutal and selfish, he lives only for self promotion and to cause pain and suffering to those around him.

Arant provides another stock character: the perfect hero. Big, handsome, morally upright with a soldier's past that he regrets. He stands up for the weak and helpless. He turns his back on wealth to seek a higher purpose. It's boring and predictable.

The problem is that these characters do not develop, there is no arc. They only discover mysteries. None of them really change. Admittedly they do go on a journey - but things happen to them. They have an idea of who and where they want to be and they either get there or they don't.

I had spotted the culprit very early into the story and solved half of the mystery long before the big denouement arrived. The other half of the reveal was something of a surprise - but it left a bad taste in the mouth. A feeling of having been cheated, a rule of crime fiction was almost broken - but not quite. It was lazy, cheap and most of all rushed. The final details are somewhat confusing and very unconvincing. This story is not half as clever as Turton wants us to believe.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-11-2020

Disappointing, I’m afraid

I was really looking forward to this book after the authors first, which I found absolutely gripping. I had read multiple positive reviews and was excited for his next mystery.
Unfortunately, for me, this book was a test of endurance. I found it plodding, the plot tedious and the characters didn’t grab me at all. I seem to be an anomaly when I read other reviews, including professional critics, so maybe it was just me. But this just didn’t have the magic or the finesse that ‘Seven Deaths...’ had.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Sararara
  • 18-01-2021

Such a disappointment

Turton’s first book was one of my favourite reads of 2018 however this new one was so very tedious.
The ‘mystery’ was slight and weighed down by seafaring politics which hold little interest unless you like Hornblower novels.
As an audiobook, my Anglo brain couldn’t retain the long list of Dutch characters which probably didn’t help matters.
However the biggest problem with names was the quasi-Sherlock character Samuel (Sammy) Pipps; as a 17th century tale, I kept thinking that there would be some clever link to Samuel Pepys - but it’s not a spoiler to say that there was not.
Abbreviating it to ‘Sammy’ seemed incongruous and jarred each time he was mentioned. At what point in history did it become fashionable to abbreviate forenames?
In addition, the plot was convoluted, incorporating a sprawling backstory full of incidents more interesting than the ones on the ship.
And unlike Seven Deaths, there was a very questionable resolution, based on facts that couldn’t have been guessed.
And after 13 hours I still don’t understand what the mysterious ‘folly’ was, which is annoying as it seemed to be highly prized.

12 people found this helpful

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  • MartinR
  • 23-02-2021

Disappointing ending

I thoroughly enjoyed the conception, writing style and character development in this 17th century Sherlock Holmes type romp aboard a Dutch East Indiaman.
Unfortunately the ending became contrived and unbelievable in order to facilitate a follow up companion?
A bit of a shame but still worth a read

6 people found this helpful

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  • amal
  • 12-12-2020

Ahhhhh Tedious

Got the book after watching the review on BBC...but lord !it was a struggled to finish

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-2020

Unbearable narration

Couldn't finish as I found the narration totally unbearable. Everyone was given the same flat muttering tone and the narrator's nasal inhales were so loud.

4 people found this helpful

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  • paul sparks
  • 21-10-2020

Dark water and dark tale

If you have ever read a Warhammer book you will know that the term grim dark future is used this wonderfully intriguing and entertaining book is the grim dark past and it is very grim and dark indeed, the twists and plots that turn and change are a joy, and without doubt they chose the right narrator for this book, outstanding performance Mr JTR

4 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 18-11-2020

Disappointing

Massive plot holes, howling lack research on 17th century conditions, anachronistic characters all over the shop, and the silliest and most redundant 'locked room' murder mystery solution I can remember. Turton can do much, much better than this!

3 people found this helpful

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  • allyblue
  • 30-03-2021

Incredible

Really intriguing mystery with a complex and fascinating cast of characters. The narration is perfect too. Highly recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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