Death Beneath the Waves

Written by Anthony Palmiotti
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In January 1942, U-124 sets sail toward what are considered to be easy targets—ships paralleling the Eastern Seaboard that have not yet been fitted for war. At the same time, the cargo ship Arrow leaves Hudson River Piers, New York, toting freight to and from La Guaira, Venezuela. A month later the vessels meet off Diamond Shoals, North Carolina.

Death Beneath the Waves recalls the time when German U-boats aggressively attacked merchant ships up and down the coasts of North America. From January to August, U-boats sank 233 ships in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes in sight of the shore, and killed 5,000 seamen and passengers. The book follows the wake of U-124, a submarine deployed to the Eastern U.S. that sank seven ships in a single month.

Though the sensationalistic cover art is reminiscent of a penny dreadful, Death Beneath the Waves is a realistic depiction of war and seamanship. The plot is fast-paced and unpredictable, propelling an anxious reader along. The narrative is strongest when capturing the operations of the sailors and the maneuvers of the sailing vessels, not surprising since author Anthony Palmiotti is a licensed merchant marine officer and professor of navigation and vessel operations. His 2017 novel First Voyage introduced readers to the Arrow and its crew in 1938 Hamburg, Germany. Death Beneath the Waves is an exciting return trip.