So good I got up at 5 to finish it.
A ship departs from 17th c Batavia (Jakarta) for Amsterdam, carrying some colonists, soldiers, sailors, a very clever detective in chains and his assistant/bodyguard, a witchhunter and maybe a demon. The ship is cursed, with first a demonic sign on the sail, then various other dark miracles as they progress. The assistant–a smarter Watson to a detective more Poirot than Sherlock– works to figure out what’s going on.
Love the way Turton nods to classic mysteries in the relationship between the assistant and the detective; his depiction of 17th c world is rich and complex (histories of wars and colonial abuses and witchhunts); and I really had no idea what was going on until very close to the end– and even then, I missed so much. So well done. Funny and a little scary and just so good.
Reminded me of all the mysteries, as referenced above, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger (complicated ship story) and Melmouth, Sarah Perry.