The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Girl, shut your mouth! That’s what I kept thinking to myself the whole time I read this book. You know, like when you tell characters not to go upstairs and check on that eerie noise? Or tell them not to marry that jerk? They always seem to do it anyway, despite the best advice from me, the reader. Mama tried, remember that…
The Woman in Cabin 10 is a quick read and certainly has its moments in the thriller genre. The protagonist is Lo Blacklock, a low-level writer for a travel magazine. She’s been toiling away for 10 years at the same job, waiting for an opportunity to prove to her boss she’s capable of more. Finally, she’s been given a golden ticket to cover an event that might just advance her career. Lo’s boss can’t make it to a gig to travel on the maiden voyage of super luxury cruising yacht, the Aurora, and Lo is asked to go instead and report on the experience. The Aurora only holds 20 passengers and a cadre of staff ready to indulge one’s every need. Doesn’t that sound lovely? The passengers are all potential investors or travel industry people – everyone is serving a purpose to the owner of the boat and cattily size each other up, as well. Nice and cozy!
To back up, our girl, Lo, wakes up at the beginning of the novel to the sound of someone rummaging through her apartment. She’s a little hungover and not thinking straight (get used to this from her) and the burglar ends up locking her in her bedroom while he ransacks the apartment. Lo isn’t physically harmed, but she is understandably shaken. After the cops show up and take what information they can, she walks to her boyfriend’s apartment to sleep. He is out of town for work and comes back early, waking up our heroine who clobbers him in the head. They argue and makeup and argue again – he wants her to move in with him (an ongoing plea we surmise) and she is still refusing to make that commitment, causing them to fight and breakup before she leaves to get on the cruise.
On the boat, one of the other travel professionals is (ta-da!) an ex-boyfriend with whom she had a nasty break-up. Did I mention Lo suffers from major mood disorders for which she takes medication? Add to that she’s sleep deprived, hasn’t eaten much, and is still shaken up from the break-in at her apartment and the break-up with her boyfriend. What would you do? Why, have one complimentary drink after another among people who will report back to your boss about your level of professionalism! So, after the introductory dinner (and too many drinks), Lo toddles back off to her cabin and, in her stupor, thinks she sees a body being thrown from the boat. She proceeds to tell the head of security who, understandably, is skeptical when he sees several empty mini-bar bottles and knows she was drinking at the party the night before. He reluctantly agrees to check the ship and, (surprise!) everyone is accounted for among the staff and passengers except…that one girl in the cabin next door from whom Lo borrowed a mascara. Nobody else remembers her of course – or do they? Lo goes down a rabbit hole after that, telling literally anybody who will listen that she saw a murder. Again, shut your mouth, girl! Lo’s ex-boyfriend and fellow passenger spills the beans on the apartment break-in and her mental health history and more and more doubt is placed on her credibility at witnessing anything but the bottom of a drinking glass. On top of that, the internet and ship communications go out while cruising the North Sea. Technology is never there when you need it.
What happens after that? You’ll have to read it for yourself. I don’t like spoilers and try not to be one! I was intrigued enough to finish it, but ultimately didn’t like it as much as Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. Even those two didn’t quite live up to expectations, but I’m not sure many thrillers can. Sleep No More by Greg Iles was another thriller that had me enthralled right up until the end; the WTF ending completely lost my faith and I haven’t read anything by him since. Authors write one gripping scene after another and then…what do you do to top all of that? It’s hard. I can’t remember the last time I read something where I didn’t see the end coming or was totally satisfied by how the author wrapped it up. It seems that, more often than not, endurance is tested and the authors fall short of the finish line. The Woman in Cabin 10 is worth a look, but be duly warned that you’ll want to slap that girl’s mouth shut while you’re reading!