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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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29 / 51 states. 57% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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24 / 50 books. 48% done!

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Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

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66 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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44 / 52 books. 85% done!

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72 / 165 books. 44% done!
Friday, August 13, 2021

Supernatural (or Not?) Thriller An Entertaining High Seas Yarn

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"That's the problem with summoning devils, you see.  Sooner or later, somebody else raises them against you" (340).

It's tough to describe The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton because it's so many things at one time: a historical novel (that doesn't concern itself overly much with accurate period details), a mystery, a swashbuckling pirate adventure (that's actually kind of slow), and a monster-y campfire tale.  There are also hints of romance, philosophy, and just plain ole drama.  The book's back cover copy describes it best:  "Shirley Jackson meets Sherlock Holmes in this chilling thriller of supernatural horror, occult suspicion, and paranormal mystery on the high seas."  That about covers it.

The story takes place in the year 1634 on a vessel called the Saardam, which is on an 8-month sea voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam.  On board is Sammy Pipps, the world's greatest detective, who is being held in the ship's brig for a crime he may or may not have committed.  Traveling with him is his loyal bodyguard Arent Hayes. When strange, otherworldly things start happening aboard the ship, spooking the passengers and crew, they look to Pipps for answers.  Since he's not readily available, it's up to Arent and Sara Wessel—a noblewoman healer—to figure out what's going on.  When people on board start falling victim to an unseen killer, Arent and Sara find themselves hunting down a murderer.  Between them and Pipps, they've got more than enough smarts to catch the culprit, but what if it's not exactly of this world?  Could a demon really be responsible for all the horrible happenings on the Saardam?  Or is a more human evil to blame? 

At 480 pages, The Devil and the Dark Water isn't a swift read.  It's slow in places, but overall, I found it both engaging and exciting.  I enjoyed the main characters, who are a likable bunch even if one of them has motives that are not exactly pure.  The story's supernatural (or not?) element kept me on my toes, making me question what exactly our heroes were hunting.  What I most appreciated about this novel, though, is its examination of the devils in all of us.  If you're the kind of hist-fic reader who must have all the details exactly right, you might want to give this one a miss.  Turton admits he didn't worry much about those himself, hoping the reader would let go of the fuss and just enjoy the yarn.  You know what?  I did exactly that.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. This sounds so interesting and like it has a little something for everyone. As someone who enjoys historical fiction, mysteries, supernatural elements, and piratey adventures, it's really calling to me.

  2. This sounds like a book that has so much going on! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Sounds like there was a little bit of everything in this one. I'm just not sure I'd get through the slow parts right now.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! It looks like a great book.

  5. Over the last year, I have read a lot of 5 star raving reviews and was a bit worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. I am glad you enjoyed this one Susan. Great review.

  6. This sounds good! I like the author is upfront about his attention to historical detail and that his focus is on a good story. I think I'll have to see if I can get this on audio.

  7. I've been curious about this one after *mostly* enjoying The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It does sound like an interesting book!


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