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!
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Publication Date: 30th June, 2016
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US
I listened to this one and I just wasn’t a bit fan, it was okay but I got confused. I often wonder if I might not have been so confused if I read it, the flashes back to the mainland confused me.
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I can see that being harder. The short chapters at the end of each section I really liked but they were in formats like emails or Facebook posts. Can’t imagine how that would be on audio.
I loved it, too…and had just read and loved In a Dark, Dark Wood just before tackling this one.
It is hard to root for characters that are unlikable, but in this case, I found myself doing so. She had so much stacked against her!
Thanks for a great review.
It is hard you are right. there are a few times at the beginning I was really frustrated by her but after a while she did stop irking me and I started liking her.
Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I really did too though I had the same hesitations you did. I think I figured I was going to love it a few pages in during that scene where she opens her bedroom door clutching her cat and there’s a hooded man standing there. Gave me chills!
Me too. Was so worried, especially as I had skimmed some mixed reviews. The opening is great isn’t it. Simple but scary.
[…] Thursday I reviewed The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, a book I have been putting of reading for fear it wasn’t as good as Ware’s debut and […]
I agree with so much of this. It was hard to know how reliable she was, and Ware did a great job with that. Plus I thought this was a nicely atmospheric read as well, especially at the end when the setting changed somewhat. And you’re right- her own issues and insecurities were almost as compelling as the actual mystery!
It was atmospheric I agree. I wouldn’t want to be on a cruise though.
[…] The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, a book I was scared to read because I’d loved her last one so much…I am glad to report I wasn’t disappointed. […]