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Book Review: Lying In The Deep by Diana Urban

Book Review: Lying In The Deep by Diana Urban

A contemporary YA retelling of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, Diana Urban’s Lying in the Deep is a murder mystery of the twistiest kind. The suspects of this particular story are a group of students setting sail on a ship for a Semester at Sea trip – a study abroad programme that provides the perfect confined backdrop and tense locked-room vibes. What should be the experience of a lifetime soon turns into a nightmare when a shocking murder is committed. And that’s just the first one…

Having been jilted by her ex-boyfriend who instantly hooked up with her best friend, Jade wants nothing more than to escape her old life and embark on an adventure – a four-month educational luxury cruise that will take her across Europe, far away from everything she wants to forget. But when she boards the ship, Jade discovers that Silas and Lainey – the two people she was trying to get away from – are on the cruise too. How can she ignore them when they’re flaunting their romance right under her nose? And why do they keep throwing hateful looks Jade’s way, when they’re the ones who wronged her?

As Jade’s obsession with Silas and Lainey festers, the tension on the ship intensifies, leading to a cabin covered in blood and suspicion falling on Jade. With body bags piling up, fingers pointing wildly, and the atmosphere on the ship growing increasingly fraught, Jade’s trapped at sea with a killer and she’s not sure who she can trust. In order to clear her name, she teams up with her new crush, Felix, and together they try to reveal the culprit before any more of their friends wind up dead.

There was so much blood, too much blood, and the way the balcony rail was coated in it… But then a thought crossed my mind, a thought that made me falter back a step, that made bile rise in my throat and shame burn my cheeks. Yet I couldn’t help but think it. That spoiled, selfish brat got exactly what she deserved.”

When done well, whodunnits are one of the most rewarding varieties of mystery – offering up twists, turns and an endless list of suspects. Lying in the Deep takes all of these classic murder mystery tropes and wraps it up in an angsty YA package. There’s self-absorbed teens, brooding boys, backstabbing friends, delicious fake-dating, alcohol fuelled antics and plenty of people with motives for murder. Like its Queen of Crime inspiration, it also has the benefit of a glamourous floating setting, taking readers on a whistlestop tour of Europe with visits to London, Lisbon and the Azores. Yet it’s on the isolated seas, when the characters are at their most vulnerable, where all the drama happens.

Diana Urban combines slasher thrills with a sweet romance that comes on the back of that first cut of heartbreak. It helps that Jade is such an easy character to empathise with. She’s been emotionally scarred by her parents – a father who abandoned her and a mother who turned into a recluse, narrowing Jade’s life down to a box. And she’s been further damaged by Silas and Lainey’s double betrayal. Her fragile heart and angry, resentful thoughts are understandable, and whilst she might have the supposedly strongest motive for murder, readers will never doubt her innocence. Which makes finding out who the real killer is all the more important.

Lying in the Deep has plenty of surprises up its sleeve, hooking readers in from the very first page and peppering the story with red herrings right up to the end. With its suspicious characters, claustrophobic atmosphere and clever endgame, it’s a fun whodunnit that fits perfectly into the YA mystery genre alongside the likes of Karen M. McManus, Holly Jackson and E. Lockhart.


Lying in the Deep was published by Razorbill on 2 May 2023

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