“I knew what it was like to be that girl – to realize, in an instant, how incredibly fragile your hold on life could be, how paper-thin the walls of security really were.”
Ruth Ware’s The Woman In Cabin 10 is an adult thriller novel that follows journalist Lo Blacklock as she covers the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise called the Aurora Borealis. During her first night on the ship, she drunkenly witnesses what she believes to be a body being thrown overboard. She spends the remainder of the trip trying to piece together a series of clues to determine whether someone was killed, and if so, who and why.
The premise of this novel is reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works: A handful of people are stuck with a possible murderer in a relatively small space from which they can’t escape. Such setups usually make for intense mysteries, and the cruise setting struck me as original. I also appreciated that the novel’s mystery consisted of several layers. Not only must we determine whether someone was killed in the first place, but we also need to uncover the circumstances surrounding the event. Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t do the premise justice.
Unreliable narration is meant to be part of this novel’s appeal, a popular theme that seems to pop up in most modern thrillers. With Lo’s history of mental illness and tendency to drink more than is advisable, it’s easy to compare her to the main character of The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. Unfortunately, Lo’s character isn’t as sympathetic as Hawkins’ Rachel, so I doubted her interpretation of events until I was well into the book. It made her a very difficult protagonist to root for.
Reading the chapters from Lo’s perspective was also incredibly frustrating, mostly because she can be idiotic to the point of not being a believable character. The girl has a journalism degree and has worked in the field for years, yet she’s absolutely amazed that her colleagues had the sense to Google their assignments beforehand. She also thinks it’s a grand idea to wander around a boat with a potential murderer on board, telling every person she runs into about her plans to go to the police. These are just a few examples, but Lo has moments of genius like this too often to overlook.
Most of the other characters felt one-dimensional and underdeveloped, though I appreciated the effort that went into making every individual a suspect. I did question who was leaving Lo clues until the very end, but I wasn’t wowed when the big twist was unveiled. The way the ending unfolds also struck me as unrealistic, despite being mildly interesting.
In spite of all of the criticism I’ve been spouting, there were a few things I liked about this book. For starters, I’m a fan of Ruth Ware’s writing style. Her pacing was decent, and I managed to read the book in a very short period of time – so I can say that it held my attention. And I thought that the portrayal of mental illness did a good job of highlighting the stigmas surrounding psychiatric medications without feeding into them.
I gave The Woman In Cabin 10 a 3 star rating on Goodreads. It was pretty basic as far as thrillers go, but it wasn’t necessarily what I would consider bad. It just wasn’t anything special. I enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut, In A Dark, Dark Wood, far more than her second novel – so if you find yourself wanting to check out this author, I’d suggest reading that one first.