Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin - A Cozy 1940s Mystery

About the Book:
Author: Sarah Sundin
Publisher: Revell Books
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2015
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Series: Waves of Freedom, 1
Genre: Fiction; Historical, Inspirational
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 

Synopsis: It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them. - Goodreads 

Journeying through Sarah Sundin’s books is like a quaint, never-want-to-leave trip back to yesteryear. Saying this may sound silly considering the novel’s settings are primarily based around World War II, but there’s a special kind of nostalgia that puts the reader in the exact same situation as the characters may be in. Whether that is safety or peril, we “feel” close to being there. This novel introduces us to Mary Stirling, a kind-hearted girl who enjoys living in the shadows where no spotlight can shine on her. As a secretary at a Boston naval base, Mary’s work is never done, because she pitches in behind-the-scenes on multiple projects. It’s this that re-introduces her to Jim Avery. Jim knew Mary back in high school, but hasn’t seen her in years, which is why running into her turns out to be one of the best surprises. Mary and Jim have both changed, and working together to capture a saboteur means they see each other frequently. With men fighting a war that shadows their horizon, Jim and Mary's blossoming friendship might soon be tested...  

Despite a slow beginning (I wasn’t pulled into this as quickly as anticipated, strange since it wastes no time in putting the characters together and the like), this novel was absolutely charming. It takes quite a step away from Sarah’s earlier works, which are excellent, just surprising considering the time frame is the same. This one works more of the “cozy mystery” angle than her Nightingale trilogy. This book hangs onto being “quieter,” which is perhaps the best descriptor.

Talking about the characters, Mary is quite the detective. The contrast of her character is sweet; she lives one way (meek, doing good) without attracting attention, but she does live vicariously through her Nancy Drew fixation. A story thread that is too cute! I really liked her fascination with solving puzzles, and in fact from all I hear about her, Mary’s character even reminded me of my grandmother. Not in her mystery hunting, but in all she does behind the scenes. All she wants is to honor Christ, and if that shines a spotlight on Him, that’s all the reward she wishes.  Not to disregard Jim, he too is a noble, wonderful man. The shift in his reaction to Mary was wonderfully explored and it was nice to get his perspective in the alternating POV's the prose sets up.

Much as I liked the mystery angle, I think the concept tripped over the multitude of characters that popped into the prose as suspects. While reading, I found myself trying to keep track of who’s-who and who was or wasn’t considered a legit suspect as the names continued to pile up. But that’s beside the point and certainly shouldn’t hinder what is a delightful read. Comparisons by readers describe this as a Nancy Drew mystery quite a lot, only this time, it’s set on the eve of WWII, and this is certainly true. From its brilliant historical facts that weave into the story to the charming romantic potential between two characters we come to adore, this isn’t a novel to be missed by historical fiction aficionados.

Bold and equal turns soft, this is an emotional, good time kind of read, plus there are lots of period cues avid historians are sure to appreciate, not to mention I loved everything about the characters. Pick up Through Waters Deep and prepare to get swept into the unstable, but somehow still charming time in history when every single moment counted. If this book reminds us of anything, it’s that message; one we should still carry with us today. Be prepared to swoon over dashing naval officers (plus some romantic gestures that make you go, aww) and enjoy the subtle bits of sass its heroine learns to embrace, all this adds up to one thing. Through Waters Deep should be your next “must read.” 
In leaving off, check out this super cool behind-the-scenes video of the cover shoot with Brandon Hill.

Coming Next from Sarah Sundin, Anchor in the Storm: For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. She loves the wartime challenges of her new job but spurns the attention of society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg, even if Arch is her brother’s best friend. During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the US East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves—and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the prescriptions Lillian has received for unusually large quantities of sedatives? As Lillian and Arch work together to uncover a black market drug ring, Arch tries to earn Lillian’s trust and her affection. But can they overcome the dangers that face them from torpedoes, drug lords—and opened hearts? – Goodreads, 2016

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reading it in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I'm hoping to read this one sometime soon...I'm even more interested now that you've mentioned "cozy mystery," because I love those! :) So far I've only read Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory trilogy, but I absolutely love those books. They're some of my favorite historical fiction. I have the first two books of the Wings of the Nightingale series but haven't read them yet. Great review!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Kristin. I think you'll like this newbie from Sarah. It's a great start to her latest trilogy... and those mystery elements are some of my favorite parts of the book. Mary's such a cool character because of her sleuthing... and Jim, well, he's pretty special too. :) Happy reading!

  2. Thanks for the lovely review, Rissi! I'm so glad you enjoyed Jim & Mary's story!

    1. I most certainly did, Sarah. It was a beautiful story and I cannot wait to read book two! Thank you for writing such an entertaining and emotional novel. :)

  3. I love Sarah Sundin's books and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Through Waters Deep! The mystery aspect sounds neat; I like that Mary's a Nancy Drew fan. That's really fun. And the video of the cover shoot is super cool.

    1. Wasn't that cover shoot video really cute!? It's so fascinating to see the BTS aspect of cover design. Happy reading whenever you have a chance to read this one, Sereina. I thought it was a smashing read. :)

  4. I loved this book, though I do agree that it was hard to keep up with the list of suspects when it came to the mystery side of the story. I loved that it was a story of friendship that blossomed into love though!

    1. Ditto. The suspect list confused me a bit, but it very well may have simply been me! Perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention at the time of the characters introduction. Either way, this was a wonderful story that, as you point out, features a wonderful romance. :)

  5. I read my sister Korin's copy of this book that she's planning on doing a review for soon. I'm always a huge fan of world war two stories and was really excited for this read, but it took me a little longer to get in to. I still really enjoyed it though. =)
    Thanks for reviewing!

    1. I'll have to read your sister's review, Kara. :) It's fun to see what everyone else comes away with or liked about a book, and I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Like you, I'm a fan of this era, so reading this one was high on my "must" list. It's a new favorite for sure. :)

  6. I LOVE your review of this book. You're right. It's quieter. And I loved how both Jim and Mary had to learn to be bold. I can't wait for the next in the series.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Dawn. I had fun with this review, because it felt like this book was a departure from normal for Sarah... and I think that's amazing! Sometimes when an author is traditionally known for one genre, as a reader, we wonder what stories they can tell that are "new." Sarah accomplished that and then some with this beauty. :)

  7. Thanks for another brilliant review; I would definitely agree with you that the direction Sara is going with this new series is a refreshing change of pace, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Although shorter in length, and lighter/quieter tone than her previous books, it didn't feel rushed, my favourite scenes definitely the ones nearer the beginning and middle when Jim and Mary are getting to know each other, really for the first time. The conversations they had while going out on the town worked well I thought in laying a foundation for the progression of their relationship, not to mention how adorable and precious those dance scenes were!

    The agonizing inner thoughts of both as they realized they were falling in love, but didn't know how to transition from friends to more were also kind of hilarious, especially Jim's attempts to be more 'sophisticated'. The individual personal struggles they both faced with the need to be bolder really struck a strong chord with me personally as well, something which always elevates a book in my opinion.

    While her assumptions made for a bit of an annoying hindrance to Mary and Jim's romance, I quite enjoyed our introduction to Quintessa, who seems to be destined for Jim's brother Dan in the last book of the series. I also must confess to having already fallen half in love with Arch; his friendship with Jim was gold, and I can't wait to see what Sara's got in store for him and Lillian!

    God Bless
    Eleanor Rose

    1. Hi, Eleanor! Thank you for reading. I so appreciate it and for sharing your fabulous thoughts on this series.

      Jim and Mary are one of my newer more favorite literary couples. Their quiet courtship and blossoming FRIENDSHIP (which I love) was written and paced to perfection. The fact that this was a quieter more conversational story made it all the sweeter - and like you, those dance scenes were aww inducing. :)

      I 100% agree with all you say, and in fact in reading through your comment, I'm reminded how very much I'd enjoy a re-read of this novel. Coupled with the setting (an era I've grown to love in books/film), the characters do make this novel sparkle. Summer 2016 seems too far away for book two methinks! :)

      As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Glad to read through them. :)

  8. I always love reading a new Sarah Sundin novel. Her books are always on my to buy list. This cover just gets me every time. I just want to stare at the beauty of it. Sarah has been very fortunate to have beautiful book covers.

    I really enjoyed this book, but hope she doesn't start making all her books with a suspense thread. If I choose to read a suspense book I want the whole book to be focused on that. I do agree about wondering if there can be anything new when an author only writes in one short, focused period of history. In that aspect, I liked how this book was mostly state-side. That makes it different from the previous series.

    1. Hi, Sylvia! My sincere apologies for the delay in replying to this comment. For some reason, your thorough comment escaped my notice.

      Sarah's covers are always beautiful. I love what Revell has done with this series in particular.

      I've not read all of Sarah's novels, so I wasn't aware her other books where's state side. Good to know. :) I liked the "cozy mystery" aspect of Through Waters Deep. It was "just enough" to make me curious without making me question this being rooted in its historical genre. :)


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