That's the review. Saying much more would spoil the surprises that Stuart Turton has layered throughout his sophomore novel, The Devil and the Dark Water. Acting as the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the title had a lot to live up to and I must admit, as a huge fan of Seven Deaths, I did feel some trepidation coming into this one. Surely Turton couldn't pull a rabbit out of his hat for the second time?

How wrong I was.

Reviewing a book of this type is like being asked to review a Derren Brown stage show. You can't reveal more than the basics without dampening the experience those will have when reading (or for our example, watching) for the first time.

The high seas are our setting for this 17th century gothic tale, which takes place primarily on board a galleon called the Saardam. Aboard are countless sailors and musketeers, along with a general who's travelling to meet with a shady bunch of high-profile figures known as the Gentlemen 17. Upon his arrival, he's expecting to take a seat alongside them.

With his wife, their daughter and his mistress by his side, readers soon learn that he's not somebody to be crossed. His words hold a lot of weight and, if you find yourself on the wrong side of an argument he's making, he's unafraid to give you a public dressing down, whether it be with his words, just a glance, or his fists.

He's not our central character, however. He's certainly one of them, but those who you'll really be rooting for include - but aren't limited to - his wife Sara; his prisoner Samuel Pipps; and Pipps' assistant Arent Hayes. With Pipps stowed away in what can best be described as a cage on the lowest deck, it's up to Arent and Sara to put their minds together and solve the mystery of the apparent demon known as Old Tom on board.

What really piques the interest of the reader however is not whether or not the demon is a reality, but the connections that link the majority of the character together. Turton has an awe-inspiring skill of revealing huge narrative plot points with little-to-no fanfare. They come all at once, taking you by surprise and leaving you wondering if you really did just read what you thought you did. He forces you to put your guard up whenever these bombshells fall, and just as they're coming down, another one comes full-throttle.

It's that magical talent that Turton possesses which allows his roster of rogues such an incredible platform to be explored. One of the most important things an author can do is envelop their reader within not only the setting, but the psyche of each of those who direct the story through their own journey. He does this in such a beautiful way that when you find out some of the secrets they've been hiding, you feel as though a good friend has just slapped you across the face. They're not just characters in a story; they're people you truly care about.

Deceit, fantasy, tension and suspense all combine in this unique nautical mystery that elevates the genre to a level we didn't even realise existed. Major props to Turton; the only problem is we now can't wait to see what comes next!

The Devil and the Dark Water is out now from Raven Books, available from your favourite retailers.

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