In 1634, the Saardam sets sail from Batavia, India for Amsterdam, but even before leaving port a concerning event takes place. The threat against everyone onboard soon becomes real, and as the bodies mount, and the symbols of Old Tom spread, it looks more and more like a voyage of the damned. Trying to prevent a catastrophe are Arent and Sara, two passengers who will have to solve the case without the help of the jailed Sammy Pips. Can the mystery be solved without the detective figure, Arent isn't too confident. Despite assisting Pips on many adventures, past failures, and familial ties hold him back. Sara, on the other hand, is restricted more by social boundaries and her overbearing husband. Both quickly team up, and from shared respect, begin to develop feelings for the other.
Each of the characters has some role in the mystery. As with classic setups, most of them have motives, or suspicious circumstances. The story is primarily told from the point of view of either Arent or Sara, so unravelling these agendas becomes the key. However, the Saardam is a powderkeg of superstition, secrets, rigid hierarchies, and hatred for past wrongs. As this tension mounts, it becomes more difficult for the protagonists to resolve the issues.
While not as complex as his previous work, Turton has crafted another thrilling mystery that will keep you guessing, ending in a conclusion that once again stands out from other mystery novels. His characters continue to be a strength, and this time in particular, his portrayal of female characters during an era of strict gender roles should be noted. Without the clever, cooperative, and determined actions of those like Sara, Lia, and Creesjie Jens, no one would have survived.
The Devil and the Dark Water wears its devilry on its sleeve, casting shadows every which way. Is their a devil aboard the Saardam, most certainly, and that's why this book is another must read for mystery fans.