The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton – An Audio Book Review

Devil and dark water


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….

Author: Stuart Turton

Narrator: Julian Rhindt-Tutt

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Running Time: 15hrs 11mins

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Rating of ‘The Devil and the Dark Water’: 3 out of 5

Purchase: Audible UKAudible USAmazon UKAmazon US


Much like anyone who loved ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ I was expecting to be blown away by incredibly clever storytelling in ‘The Devil and the Dark Water’ (or what I’m sure will soon be changed to ‘The Devil and the Half-Dark Water’ for readers in America). What I got was a fun, well-written and clever Sherlock Holmes-style tale. But, at no point did I get that blown away feeling.

In all fairness, it would have been near-impossible for Turton to knock my socks off like he did with Hardcastle. That’s a once in a career novel and it’s a bit harsh of me to expect him to do it twice. I just felt that the ending let down what could have been a wonderful story.

In the author interview after this audio book had run its course, Stuart Turton said he wasn’t a fan of how Dr Watson was treated like the buffoon in all of the Holmes’ stories. His mission was to write a story featuring a similar duo and give the Watson counterpart his time in the sun. With the character of Arent, he achieved that. He’s a character who, despite having the knowledge and the skill, does not have the self-belief. Seeing him progress through the book from someone who needed a partner to someone who could puzzle out difficult things on his own steam was enjoyable.

Other characters such as Sara, a large driving force in solving the mystery of the devil aboard the ship, were well-written and enjoyable additions to the book. I actually can’t think of any characters that felt shoe-horned in or out of place. They all felt like they needed to be there. My only character downside was that I never truly felt like any of them were wholly believable as evil characters. Again, that could have just been a personal thing and perceiving the storytelling slightly wrongly.

One slight issue is the length of this. I don’t feel that it needed to be as long as it was. Some parts felt as though they dragged but, in all fairness, that could have just been a personal thing on my part. Another, slightly larger, issue for me was the ending. Everything was just accepted by certain characters. Things that, considering certain characters were billed as ‘the most honourable man alive’ etc … should never have been accepted and swept under the rug. It just took the wind out of my sails and left the ending feeling not only forced, but incredibly flat because of this.

Those negatives aside, it was still an enjoyable story and I’d certainly keep my eye out for Stuart Turton’s work in the future. 

Julian Rhind-Tutt was a wonderful narrator. I loved him as an actor in Green Wing all those years ago and think his voice transfers wonderfully over into narration.

19 thoughts on “The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton – An Audio Book Review

  1. Well, as you know I’m not a huge fan of Holmes, but what triggered me was the Amsterdam angle 😊 As I live in Holland, that I guess is pretty interesting. Overall though, I don’t think this is a book for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In all fairness, he wrote one of the more unique novels I’ve ever come across with The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

      But I agree with the Holmes comment. I’d rather people did shorts than tried to force whole novels out of Doyle’s brain child.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I ever get around to this, hoping that I will then I think that I need to make sure that my expectations are lower and not expect Hardcastle level brilliance. but something that is fun if overly long, sigh, one of the main reasons I am yet to read this is the length and there you go saying that is felt overlong in places! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got through it in 2 days and I don’t find it overly slow or long. I suppose it depends how engaged you get in the story but I wouldn’t say it drags

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The feeling overly long isn’t a comment I hear often. I think it was more me specific. As Rine mentioned, she blasted through it and, in her review, she classed it as her favourite read of the year.

      So you may get more joy out of it than I did

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great, honest review! I haven’t read this one, but think I will feel the same about it. I normally love impossible crimes, but I think I will give this one a miss, especially since you say the ending wasn’t up to the standard and it could have been shorter.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I bought a book recently that is titled “Miraculous Mysteries” (British Library Crime Classics) ed. by Martin Edwards and apparently it has a number of good “impossible” crimes. I am yet to read it though.

        Liked by 1 person

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