A look at the book list on Sarah Sundin’s website indicates that Through Waters Deep is her eighth published book. In her acknowledgments section in the book she mentions that she is new to mystery writing. Well, I never would have guessed that while reading this book, and am glad that she has another mystery in this Waves of Freedom series in the works. While Ms Sundin is described as a World War II author, this was also her first book about the Navy. She was quite brave to take on a new genre and a new area of research simultaneously, and she pulled it off marvelously.
Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, as America struggles in its decision as to whether to enter another war or to refrain unless directly attacked. Emotions run high on both sides of the argument. There are some who might take matters into their own hands, arranging circumstances to sway public opinion. Mary Sterling, a secretary in the Boston Navy Yard, an unlikely detective, is pulled into the intrigue of identifying a saboteur who might be trying to do just that. Ensign Jim Avery, a high school friend of Mary’s, supports her investigation even though he is anxious about her safety, and wonders about the possibility of a budding romance; that is until the vibrant Quintessa , Mary’s best friend and Jim’s high school crush, arrives on the scene. Sabotage, mystery, and romance, all ingredients for a great read, are included in just the right combination.
I loved that the mystery is introduced on the first page of the story. Sundin’s pool of suspects is like the ripples from tossing a stone into a pond, every growing circles, with a bulls-eye forming in the center. The circumstances surrounding the mystery and the events that unfold are plausible, and there is no magically pulling out new facts or characters at the end in order to solve the mystery. Red herrings are seamlessly woven into the story. Sundin followswhat P.D. James refers to as the fair play rule. The information that is available to the detective is also available to the reader, but clues are provided with “deceptive cunning.”
The research that went into writing Through Waters Deep is well evident. Sundin’s care to use era appropriate vocabulary, especially in naming places in Boston, demonstrates her detailed research, as does her knowledge and use of naval terminology. The feel she got from exploring ships, climbing inside naval gun mounts, and touring Boston, including historical Charlestown, comes through, heightening the reader’s senses as they are immersed in the story’s setting.
Sundin’s protagonist, Mary Sterling, deals with the issue of pride; the reader will cheer her on as she learns to differentiate between using one’s God given gifts and talents to draw attention to self and using them to glorify the Giver. Ensign Jim Avery floats through life, fearful of making waves that might bring about undesired consequences. The reader will share his heartache and struggle alongside him as he learns to find balance in his life. Sundin develops the readers’ attachment to even her secondary characters by focusing on the underlying motivations for their actions, motivations that readers can identify with. This novel, and others like it, make it clear why recent research has found evidence that literary fiction increases the readers ability to empathize.
I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Through Waters Deep for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.