- Author: Stuart Turton
- Series: Standalone
- Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
- No. of pages: 463
- Dates read: 19.07.21 – 23.07.21
- Star Rating: 5 stars
- Challenge: Sequel
Plot: It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Traveling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.
Stuart Turton is slowly making his way to my top authors list. I read his debut two years ago and loved it, so when it was announced that he was releasing another book I knew I needed to get it ASAP. I am never really sure what to expect from him so when I read the blurb of the book I was sooooo intrigued. I am super happy to say that once again he knocked it out of the park. I literally read about 150 pages in one sitting I was that invested.
Starting off with the writing. Turton has really beautiful prose. I wanted to highlight every single piece of dialogue, every single passage, everything. I was super close to bringing out the highlighters and annotating it, the only reason I didn’t was because that meant putting the book down and I needed to keep reading!!! I loved how in the first book we were just following one person’s POV but in this we got to follow a couple more people which made it really refreshing to read. I also felt the balance between moments of high intensity and moments of calm or inaction was done really well. Those moments of high intensity were the best parts to read, I was on the edge of my seat trying to make sure I didn’t rush myself to find out what happened!
As per usual Turton does a great job with the plot there were a couple of times where I was adamant who the culprit was but boy was I wrong!! I really enjoyed the story and how things unfolded or were revealed to the characters. I loved all the character dynamics and politics going on. One of my favourite elements was the tense atmosphere with the sailors and the musketeers that was so much fun. I also loved the setting. For some reason, when it comes to murder mysteries I am drawn to settings like boats, trains, secluded manor houses. I like the idea of everyone being stuck in one place, tensions rise, emotions are high and it makes for great storytelling. I felt this setting worked really well for this type of story.
I really enjoyed each character in this novel. My favourite has to be Sara Wessell because I love seeing a female character take charge of a situation no matter how dire the circumstances. To be honest all the female characters in this were written really nicely from main characters like Sara to side characters like Sara’s maid, Dorothea. The male characters were also very good and varied in looks and personality. Arent was also a brilliant character and I enjoyed reading his internal monologue. Normally with murder mysteries my focus is always on the plot and less of the characters but the characters were super enjoyable for me and I liked learning about them as I made my way through the novel.
In terms of world building I think Turton did a great job at setting up all I needed to know about the setting. That being said I know nothing about 1634 Dutch colonisers or merchant ships in general so all I can comment on was that I felt like a knew enough and was given enough information about this part of the world to read and enjoy the story. I also felt Turton did a brilliant job in setting up the character dynamics and all the varying backstories really well as well, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with too much information. I also enjoyed the exploration of class and gender in this book, I can’t delve into to much as some of it leans into spoiler territory but I love the feminist tones of the book as well as discussions of what it’s like to be noble and a woman and poor and a woman.
Overall, this was a really great book that I would highly recommend and I hope it gets adapted for the movie or stage or something!!!