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. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a 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…
I have waited quite a while to read The Woman in Cabin 10. Despite having loved Ruth Ware’s debut (In A Dark Dark Wood), I was anxious. Anxious that this wouldn’t live up to the expectations I already had of her as an author able to craft a story that kept me on the edge of my seat from the opening paragraph to the final sentence.
Thankfully, my fears were unfounded (though I am refusing to kick myself for waiting so long to pick this book up, regret never getting me anywhere). The Woman in Cabin 10 is a cracking read. It opens strongly, with a break in at Lo’s flat that sounds more than a bit terrifying and means by the time she gets to the ship, she is tired, strung out and just a little (o.k. a lot) on edge.
Her behaviour is unpredictable, fuelled as it is by lack of sleep, too much alcohol and anxiety (something she is already on medication for). It doesn’t make her the most likeable character, even if you understand her behaviours, and it definitely makes her an unreliable one. It is no wonder people don’t believe her, or take her seriously, when she says someone has been murdered on the first night of the cruise or that that same murderer is now after her.
As a reader, I have to say I wasn’t too sure myself. Had I been on board I may have taken the same tack as the head of security or other passengers and asked her how much was down to drink and drugs. I doubt I would have scoured the ship or locked people in their cabins until land was reached. Ware does a great job in Lo of building a character that you just don’t quite believe, even if you want to. And then the question is why would the other passengers want to when she hasn’t done a lot to win them over.
At first, I found Lo quite irritating. Then, I started to realise that was possibly the point. She isn’t that likeable and she isn’t that believable. Which means she is on her own. She has to overcome her demons, her insecurities in order to prove that she is right and, in the end, survive. So, it’s not just about saving the mystery woman in cabin 10. It’s about saving herself too and moving on with a life that is, quite frankly, stuck and going nowhere because of her fears and insecurities.
With that lightbulb moment (I do occasionally have them) it felt like all was forgiven with Lo and I started to enjoy her character and root for her. It’s a good thing too as she is not only the main character, it’s her voice you hear throughout – not liking it would have mean not liking the book. Other passengers are slightly stereotypical – handsome photographer, wealthy man of industry, bitchy journalist, plus an ex-boyfriend (which I did find a bit odd given where they were) – and not as well rounded as I might have liked.
They are, really, a means to an end. Characters that Lo can play off and which provide an ideal cast of potential suspects in a very Miss Marple kind of way – was it the beautiful model with the broken champagne flute in the spa or the Bear Grylls wanna be with the carving knife in the library?
Because of this guess who game I started playing, the stereotypes didn’t bother me. In fact, I enjoyed them and I enjoyed the book. It was well written, with great pace and it was fun. For all those reasons I liked it a lot – a recommended read!