Lo Blacklock has won the office prize! Her boss Rowan is unable to take a cruise on a luxury boat to see the Northern Lights, so after ten years of doing travel journalism she’s finally going to have an expensive trip to write about. The trip on the Aurora promises fine dining and pampering aplenty and Lo will just have to file some pieces extolling its virtues! What could possibly go wrong?
Sadly, Lo has a traumatic experience just before setting off which indirectly led to a split with her boyfriend who she’s been holding at arm’s length. Not the best start when the boat isn’t a huge cruise-liner but a compact yet bling encrusted yacht with populated by other journalists, the billionaire owner and his wife and a smattering of the great and the good. Despite her personal problems Lo is determined to make this trip count, to make her mark and hopefully bag the stand-in role for Rowan when she takes her maternity leave. She’s pleased to meet a former boyfriend Ben on the boat, especially due to the anxiety that she’s suffered for years which has been made worse by the trauma of days before she drinks too much and quite frankly doesn’t really pull off the ambitious yet capable journalist look she was going for.
After retiring to her cabin she believes she hears a scream, followed by a big splash. The partition separating her verandah from the one in Cabin 10 is smeared with blood and the girl she saw in there earlier has disappeared. Lo fears she’s been tipped into the water and begins to raise the alarm, but it seems she’s not going to be believed.
The setting on a boat is great for this closed house type mystery and the lack of phone signal and the Wi-Fi being down completes the isolation from the rest of the world, and crucially stops Lo from doing what she’d like, which is to escape. Denied safety and panicking more than ever, unsurprisingly as she believes she’s on a boat with a killer, Lo tries to investigate herself. What follows is a fairly twisty turny read that is claustrophobic in the extreme. The style is underpinned by crisp writing, although we have an insight into Lo’s anxiety issues they are not endlessly dwelt upon so the plot moves along at a fair old pace.
I often say I don’t have to like the characters to enjoy a book and in The Woman in Cabin 10, it wasn’t that I actively disliked Lo but I didn’t really have it in me to whole-heartedly sympathise with her – this left me feeling more than a bit mean as I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy being on a boat with no means of escape with a killer, but it did leave me feeling a little bit at odds with the book which was disquieting.
There is no doubt that Ruth Ware has come up with a book that is a modern twist on the locked house scenario. There are very few opportunities for this type of setting in the modern world where we can access someone the other side of the world with ease but the boat setting was entirely believable (although such an exclusive setting is one that I suspect few of us have experienced. From a fairly sedate start the pace slowly mounted to reach an action-packed finale, no sitting around passively while the detective pronounces the killer in this version!
If I’m honest I did prefer this author’s debut novel In a Dark Dark Wood, maybe because the setting and characters were far more familiar to me than those presented in this book. I like being able to relate to the characters in particular, even if I wouldn’t want to spend time with them but the mixture of sycophantic journalists and wealthy businessmen really don’t feature that heavily in my life. If you want a book with a bit of escapism with high drama, this is well-worth a read.
I’d like to thank the publisher Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of this book which was published on 30 June 2016. This honest review is my thank you to them.