Cover of Lying in the Deep by Diana Urban. A ship's porthole with a bloody handprint

About the Book

Title: Lying in the Deep
Published: 2023

Cover Story: Wilson!
Drinking Buddy: Anchors Aweigh
MPAA Rating: R (Language, Sexuality, Drug Use, Murder)
Talky Talk: Meh…
Bonus Factor: Semester at Sea
Bromance Status: Suspicious Minds

Cover Story: Wilson!

I like it. Great stark cover for a nautical murder mystery.

The Deal:

Everything was going well for college student Jade. She had a wonderful boyfriend, Silas. And when he lost his baseball scholarship due to an injury, her BFF, Lainey, arranged for him to get an internship with her father’s company that would keep him at Stanford. Jade and Silas have a wonderful future planned out. They’re even going to spend a semester at sea, how cool will that be?

Until Silas dumps her via text message. And takes up with Lainey. Via text message. And they both block her.

Devastated, Jade figures a semester at sea is just what she needs to mend her heartbreak. The calming Atlantic, twelve different countries. It’ll be beautiful. That is until she realizes Silas and Lainey are on the ship as well. They assumed Jade would be the one to drop out of the trip.

Determined to win Silas back, Jade locks horns with her ex-best friend. Until the night Lainey vanishes, leaving behind a bloody stateroom and an open porthole. Who could have done this? Well, all signs point to the girl she was openly fighting with. Jade, with the help of mysterious loner dude Felix, is determined to clear her name.

Until other people start dying as well…

Drinking Buddy: Anchors Aweigh

Two pints of beer cheersing

So Jade just wants to talk with Silas and Lainey, let them explain their betrayal to her face. But for some reason they both seem furious with her. They keep dancing around some horrible thing Jade has done, but for the life of her, she can’t think of anything they should be angry about. They were the ones who ghosted her!

And now things are getting weird. In London, someone tries to drop a slab of rock on Lainey, while Jade is on hand. Everyone on the ship knows that Lainey stole Jade’s man. And yeah, maybe Jade accidentally stabbed Silas in the leg with a dagger she smuggled on board. Even Felix, who’s obviously crushing on Jade, wonders if she’s hiding something.

If Jade doesn’t want to wind up in a foreign prison, she has to figure out what really happened to Lainey before they hit Gibraltar.

MPAA Rating: R (Language, Sexuality, Drug Use, Murder)

I love a good mystery with a limited pool of suspects. It had to have been someone on board. Was it Miguel, whose social media platforms were nuked by Lainey? Navya and Divya, Jade’s twin roommates? Sketchy Bob, the middle aged ‘lifelong learner’ who takes too much of an interest in teen girls? Felix, who never speaks of his past? Did Silas want to get back together with Jade and needed to eliminate his current girlfriend? Or is Jade an unreliable narrator?

Talky Talk: Meh…

There were a few things in this book that made this book less authentic than it could have been. For starters, some of the characters’ alibi was that they were somewhere else ‘trying meth.’ Excuse me? Meth isn’t something you just try, especially when you’d have to sneak it past customs. I’d buy ecstasy, molly, or coke, but meth is not a party drug. It really made a big part of the book seem silly and unrealistic.

Also, whenever a new crime happens, Jade’s first instinct is to go trampling all over the scene, touching everything. And every single time she implicates herself further. She never learns.

Finally, we don’t get a hell of a lot of backstory about Jade. She talks about how her mother went slightly insane after her father abandoned the family, but this is never expanded upon, which I think was a wasted opportunity. As was Jade, who has almost no money, trying to get along on a cruise ship filled with rich kids.

Bonus Factor: Semester at Sea

A woman on a boat from a "boats boats boats" commercial from a TV show

How cool would it be to spend a semester on the ocean, stopping at beautiful historic ports, having classes on deck, and studying by the pool? Jade had to save for a year to afford this, and has to go without eating at some ports, but it’s worth it. At least it was until her two mortal enemies show up.

I’ve known teachers who’ve worked on these vessels, but they were small boats. I think the author made a mistake by setting this on a cruise ship instead of a much smaller craft. On a ship with hundreds of passengers and crew, the murderer could easily have been a stranger. On a smaller boat, we could have had a very limited pool of suspects. I love that type of mystery.

Bromance Status: Suspicious Minds

I’ve liked the author’s first two books, so I’ll keep reading…for now.

Literary Matchmaking

All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets is another spooky mystery by the same author.

The Opposite of Here

Tara Altebrando’s The Opposite of Here is another cruise ship mystery.

And Then There Were None

And of course, the one that started it all.

FCC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money. No money, I swear! I have witnesses.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.