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The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton

As many of you may know, this is the second offering from the author of the mesmerisingly bonkers ‘Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.’ I loved a lot about this book right up until the last act, you can reach me on social media if you want to chat about that!

But, we’re here right now to talk about The Devil and the Dark Water and woah, do I have something to say. Firstly, I want to share that I am certain that I wouldn’t have picked this up based on the blurb alone – it’s not really my ‘thing’ and I only pre-ordered this because of Seven Deaths and I wanted to see where Turton went next.

So, let’s just say that I didn’t know I needed a period nautical crime thriller horror mystery until I read the first chapter of this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set at sea, nevermind on board an East India Trading Company ship. Google it, these things are absolutely incredible. Think the 1991 movie Hook and his huge gallion.

What’s clear from the outset is Turtons ability to create his reality, to bring you into the surroundings he’s describing in such a silky and fluid way that you are willfully submerged into his narrative waves. His language is accessible yet beautiful, full of detail and yet not laboured. I find myself re-reading sentences because of their beauty, not because they’re filled with too many complex adjectives as is so often the case with writers in this genre. I find myself almost smelling the putrid air in the poop decks and feeling the humidity in the cabins. I can almost hear the hundreds of footsteps clattering over the wood floors and squeaks and shouts as deckhands hoist sails. Turton creates an atmosphere with seeming ease and comfort and I’m happy to be invited in.

Where folks came and went with little impact or complexity in Seven Deaths, Turton has cranked up the character development in this offering by offering nods to backstory and family ties that I was invested in. I wasn’t holding out for a happily ever after or just desserts, but I was interested in where they came from and where they were going, for the most part. I would say though that some of this came too late. I was wondering why some folks were there, what their significance was for so long that by the time it was revealed, I’d stopped caring.

There was a fierce woman who refused to be bound by her controlling husband any longer, a man whose loyalty to his chosen family may have both saved and blinded him, and loads more in-between. Despite this though, the resolution felt flat to me. I saw it coming and the reveal was drawn-out. I couldn’t get behind the perpetrator’s reasoning or justification for their actions which ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied with the ending. It was a journey I enjoyed but was left wanting once it had finished. I could only recommend this book to fans of the genre as there wasn’t enough to it for me without that extra level of interest/intrigue that can connect you to a book before you even read it.

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