Ruth Ware’s previous novel, In the Dark, Dark Wood, was reviewed last year. Read it here: http://wp.me/p6N6mT-y
Following the success of her debut novel, In the Dark, Dark Wood, Ware’s second thriller was released with a great deal of publicity and an early spot on the best-seller’s list. However, while Ware has crafted a wonderful story, her story-telling skills are a bit shaky and — as a result — Woman in Cabin 10 never becomes as good a novel as it could have been.
The story centers on the experiences of Laura Blackfoot, a second rate travel writer who is given a chance to set sail on the maiden voyage of the luxury yacht the Aurora Borealis and write a story of her trip. However, Laura (or Lo) is a very woman whose fragile mental state has been further taxed the night before leaving for her trip by a burglary of her home.
Lo arrives on board feeling an under-prepared outsider who is still recovering from her attack, which she manages to dull by drinking too much. When she wakes in the middle of the night to hear what she is certain is a murder taking place next door in Cabin 10. Her erratic behavior, her excessive drinking, and her lack of professionalism combine to make the staff and passengers of the ship disinclined to believe her. In fact, she soon learns that there are no passengers registered to Cabin 10 and the woman Lo is certain was killed may never have even existed.
Despite the fact that she has been warned from away from pursuing her own investigation, Lo finds she cannot let it go; she cannot leave a woman’s death unsolved. Soon, Lo has turned all of her time and attention to learning who the missing woman was and who — from the small number of people aboard the ship — murdered her. The deeper she digs, the more she finds strange things happening to her (missing items from her cabin, threatening messages, stolen cell phone) and before long she begins to wonder if her life is in danger as well.
My primary critique of Woman in Cabin 10 is that the first-person narrator seems flimsy, needy, and childish which makes the book seem more Young Adult than Adult fiction. (Indeed, this was was same criticism I had for In the Dark, Dark Wood.) That said, the story really was exciting: Ware’s plot moved swiftly and her secondary characters are an nerve-wracking collection of possible murder suspects. Additionally, the setting of the luxury yacht adrift in the North Sea with a cast of reporters, millionaires, and staff was a excellent choice for a thriller.