The best female scuba diving thrillers and mysteries

Who am I?

My wife suggested we try scuba diving while on holiday in Grand Cayman. We were already falling in love with the island, and the incredible experience underwater opened a whole new world to us. From that moment on, our yearly travels changed completely. Our destination choices were now based upon diving opportunities. That was twenty years ago. Today, I’m a certified divemaster with dives all over the US (including Hawaii), the Caribbean (including Cuba), Australia, and even Iceland. Throw in my sense of adventure as a former race car driver, motorcycle rider, and outdoor adventurer, and I had plenty of personal experiences to create the AJ Bailey series.

I wrote...

Twelve Mile Bank: AJ Bailey Adventure Series - Book One

By Nicholas Harvey,

Book cover of Twelve Mile Bank: AJ Bailey Adventure Series - Book One

What is my book about?

A mysterious shipwreck. A ruthless treasure hunter. A race against time. Cayman Islands divemaster AJ Bailey is searching for a long-forgotten WWII U-boat at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. Armed with nothing more than an adventurous spirit and her late grandfather’s tale, she's determined to find the submarine and the secret it protects.

My first novel was a passion project. The old adage says "write what you know…" so that’s what I did. Blending my love of scuba diving, the Cayman Islands, and WWII history, Twelve Mile Bank became one woman’s quest to rediscover a lost U-boat. But amongst the action, the story’s backbone is AJ’s touching relationship with her late grandfather, and his captivating stories which fuel her search.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Girl Beneath the Sea

By Andrew Mayne,

Book cover of The Girl Beneath the Sea

Why this book?

I’d already written several books in my AJ Bailey series when Girl beneath the Sea came out. With the might of a large publisher behind the book it hit best-seller lists and proved to me that I was writing books with a subject matter appealing to a broad audience.

Mayne’s protagonist, Sloan McPherson, is a police diver in Florida, who takes cases much farther than her role suggests. She’s an imperfect person with baggage and problems, but her gutsy determination drives the stories forward.

I dive into each new book in the series on the day they’re released.

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

By James Nestor,

Book cover of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

Why this book?

Okay, so Deep isn’t specifically about women, or scuba diving – it tackles freediving – but includes females and anyone who loves diving in any form should read this book. The meticulous research into the physiology and psychology of human beings underwater is simply fascinating. Nestor ventures off into all kinds of territory, from octopus intelligence; to whales conversing; to humans holding a single breath for an inhuman amount of time.

Freediving is the common theme in the book, but it is far more than that. This is an in-depth study of life beneath the waves from an intriguing perspective.

Deep Shadow

By Nick Sullivan,

Book cover of Deep Shadow

Why this book?

Nick has become a good friend, we’ve collaborated on several projects, and dropped our characters into each other’s books. But before all that, I read Deep Shadow. I’d already published a few books in my AJ Bailey series and was excited to find a fellow dive enthusiast with a taste for adventure and mystery.

Nick’s Emily Durand character is a fun-loving dive guide, boat captain, and powerhouse packed into a petite frame. She and AJ were destined to be friends!

Swimming with the Dead: An Underwater Investigation

By Kathy Brandt,

Book cover of Swimming with the Dead: An Underwater Investigation

Why this book?

Kathy’s series – which I wish she’d continue one day – inspired me to include my passion for scuba diving in my novels. Her main character, Hannah Sampson, is a member of the Denver Underwater CSI team, who’s asked to help the police in the British Virgin Islands investigate a case. Needless to say, she stays on the island for the following books and becomes embroiled in hair-raising cases that challenge her above and below the water.

Kathy published her series at a time when very few novels centered around diving, and certainly didn’t include a female protagonist. I found her work transported me to the islands, and enthused me to create AJ Bailey and subsequently, Nora Sommer.

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver

By Jill Heinerth,

Book cover of Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver

Why this book?

Jill isn’t only the world’s top female cave diver, she’s one of the best, period. What’s amazing about this book is how it reads like a hair-raising fantastical adventure tale, yet it’s all true.

I’ve dabbled in cave diving in the cenotes of Mexico, and it is certainly addictive stuff, but I can’t imagine going to the places Jill has risked her life to discover.

This could easily have been a choice in my females who kick-ass list as well!

4 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in scuba diving, the Tropics, and Canada?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about scuba diving, the Tropics, and Canada.

Scuba Diving Explore 8 books about scuba diving
The Tropics Explore 10 books about the Tropics
Canada Explore 216 books about Canada

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like No Virgin Island, Fields' Guide to Dirty Money, and The Firm if you like this list.