The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Laura (Lo) Blackstock is excited to finally get the opportunity of her travel journalism career: a chance to cover the launch of a luxury cruise ship, the Aurora. The ship is headed to Norway, and Lo has the ability to mingle with a set of wealthy passengers and make some connections to jump-start her writing career. But before she even sets foot on the boat, Lo is reeling from a break-in at her apartment, which leaves her anxious, exhausted, and--through a series of unfortunate events--on the outs with her boyfriend, Jonah. Still, at first the Aurora seems gorgeous and luxurious, if a bit small for Lo's claustrophobia. But her first evening on board, after an evening of dining and drinking, Lo is awoken to the sound of an argument in cabin 10 next door, and she's convinced she sees a woman tossed overboard. But no one on the ship believes her, and the woman she knows she met earlier in cabin 10, when asking to borrow mascara, is gone--nowhere on the boat. Lo knows realistically this isn't possible: it's a small boat and people can't just disappear. But she also knows who she saw and what she saw. Is she going crazy? And is someone on the boat now out to get her?
This was an interesting and suspenseful thriller. I agree with the comparisons to an Agatha Christie novel: with the setting of the novel being a ship, you have a limited cast of characters (and suspects), which heightens some of the intrigue. Ware does an excellent job of setting the scene, and you can practically feel yourself trapped in this opulent yet slightly claustrophobic, endlessly rocking luxury cruise-liner. Lo is set up rather quickly as unreliable narrator: she's clearly anxious after her break-in, prone to drinking, and reeling from a lack of sleep. Therefore, from the outset, we're not sure if we can trust what we're reading or what seems to be unfolding on this ship. One of my favorite things about this novel is that it certainly keeps you guessing -- I was constantly coming up with (and discarding) various theories as I read, placing blame on a new character every few chapters. And, of course, always harboring that seed of doubt that Lo just made the entire thing up. While we hear entirely from Lo, Ware places a few newspaper stories at the end of each chapter, which just add to your doubt and confusion.
As for Lo, she's not the most enjoyable of main characters and due to our limited set of characters, we don't have many others, so most of the tale hinges on her. She's a bit annoying and whiny and prone to overthinking and bad decisions. She can get frustrating at times, to say the least. The story itself isn't really creepy or spooky, but it's definitely interesting and, as I said, keeps you guessing until nearly the very end. A few of the plot points seem a bit haphazard, as if things were just jammed together randomly into the story, but I suppose they all work together at the end.
Overall, this is certainly an engaging and suspenseful thriller. If you enjoy a fast-paced whodunnit, this one is for you. 3.5 stars.
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