Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
I was looking forward to reading this book based on the positive feedback I had heard regarding Sturton’s previous book. I wouldn’t say that I’m normally a huge fan of mystery/detective type books but to my pleasant surprise, this was something a little different. There are the usual twists and turns you would expect in a novel of this type but the story and characters elevated it above the norm.
One of the best things about this book was the sense of atmosphere. It goes to some seriously creepy and evocative places. The majority of the tale takes place on the sea voyage of the Saardam. I was worried that the setting would be a little dull but I needn’t have worried as Turton fleshes it out in all its dank and spooky glory.
I liked the characters for the most part. Sara in particular is feisty and interesting without descending into Mary Sue tropes. Arent was also a complex and well developed character when it would have been easy for a character of this type to be quite dull. I liked how the typical Sherlock Holmes detective type dynamic was turned on its head with the “Watson” character taking centre stage and being able to shine.
The real strength of this novel was how incredibly spooky and weird it was. Not in a hokey way, it got under my skin as a reader and gave me literal heebie-jeebies and the building sense of dread and disaster helps keep the pace running at breakneck speed. The descriptions of the mysterious events and their cleverly thought out conclusion were also portrayed really well. That red lantern! Ugh.
The only small niggles I have surrounded the confusing myriad of supporting characters. I kept forgetting who was who, particularly at the beginning of the book and some of them felt a little superfluous.
There was also the inevitable insta-love between two of the main characters. It developed into a meaningful and sweet relationship, but I couldn’t work out why the attraction was immediate, especially as the author made pains to stress how unattractive one of the pair was.
I didn’t guess the ultimate conclusion to the story and although there were a few plot holes I didn’t think they detracted anything from the overall story. Overall, a rollicking read perfect for the darkening winter days ahead.