Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea.
At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant, but as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the desk, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.
While I have yet to read Ruth Ware’s debut mystery In a Dark, Dark Wood (it is on my must-read!), the author’s books are ones that I have been reading much buzz and acclaim about over the last year or so. When the opportunity came up to read and review Ware’s latest, The Woman in Cabin 10, I was definitely intrigued. Unsettling and eerie, with a claustrophobic air pervading the entire read, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a twisted mystery with some shockers.
Our protagonist and narrator is early-thirties Lo Blacklock, a journalist who is hoping to break out of the rut with her latest assignment: reporting and covering the maiden voyage of the premier, first class, ridiculously swank cruise ship the Aurora Borealis. Lo, from the get-go of the story, is someone who’s muddied by chaos. Dealing with the direct aftermath of a traumatic event in her home, she drinks too much, takes pills, doesn’t and can’t sleep well- in other words, has all the makings of an unreliable narrator. As more reveals come to light about Lo and her history, though, she becomes less of an unreliable and unlikable narrator- making the utterly terrifying situation she gets into all the more compelling.
As we learn from the description, there is indeed an incident that arises on the Aurora- an incident in which Lo, from the vantage point of her cabin veranda, witnesses someone from the cabin next door- cabin 10- being thrown overboard the ship. Lo is utterly terrified- what’s happening and where is the dark-haired woman from cabin 10 who lent her mascara earlier in the day? While raising alarm and trying to convince the tightly-knit ship staff of murder, Lo is thwarted in every attempt to convince everyone what she saw. No blood, no physical evidence…no individuals unaccounted for…no sign of anyone ever inhabiting cabin 10. But how is this possible? And had Lo really seen a woman in cabin 10? Lo, though, does not give up and begins an increasingly desperate, frantic search for the missing woman- the woman she knew she saw. Save for the brief unexpected terror at the story’s opening, Ware takes her time letting the story build. While slow on building plot tension and a little rough with easing into Lo’s voice, Ware does a super job with setting the atmosphere. She creates and builds that uneasy, confined, claustrophobic experience of being trapped in a moving vessel so well, one really feels that bilious, queasy discomfort that Lo has on the Aurora. Moreover, Ware quite makes up for a slower, bumpy beginning by taking Lo and the story into psychological terror and suspense worthy of a Paul Greengrass-directed film. No spoilers, but there are some shocking and slightly crazy moves that Ware pulls toward the end of story, making for one exhausting yet satisfying thrill-ride.
Overall, despite a slightly unevenly paced beginning and some bumps in flow, The Woman in Cabin 10 is good, thrilling fun. I love it when a mystery makes you gasp- when an author throws out a surprise or two you did not see coming- and kudos to Ware who made me gasp a few times with regard to the direction the novel took. Mystery readers who have previously enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut will likely be much looking forward to this! Readers who enjoy the mystery/suspense work of authors such as Megan Miranda, Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Megan Abbott might especially enjoy The Woman in Cabin 10.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.