“The Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware, was published in 2016 and became a New York Times Bestseller… a reputation it deserves. I devoured the book in one day, deeply regretting that I hadn’t taken it with me on a train ride and wait at a doctor’s office (my husband was with me and I wanted to be polite and not ignore him for a book, foolish decision).
Note: I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. My opinions are my own.
Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a struggling writer at travel magazine “Velocity.” She’s been there for years without a promotion when, due to the illness of a higher up, a plum assignment drops into her lap. She gets a chance to cover the cruise ship “Aurora,” a sparkling miniature gem of a ship that will intimately house rich and influential people. Her task is to interview and report on them and the exciting ship, and hope she can hobnob her way into advertising money for the magazine.
Things kick off to an inauspicious start two days before she’s scheduled to leave, though, when a burglar breaks into her flat, robs her, and barricades her in her room. Luckily for Lo the burglar hasn’t taken her passport and she’s able to get on the ship on time… after an unexpected PTSD driven physical altercation with her long time boyfriend, Judah Lewis. Once on the ship, Lo is primed to have a good time, experience a bit of luxury, and further her career. But she can’t stop thinking about the burglary or the fight she and her boyfriend had. And when she hears a large splash at night, she isn’t entirely sure if she imagined it… or if a body was thrown overboard with her as the only witness.
Lo is a deeply flawed woman, one grappling with functional alcoholism and a fear of commitment, a history of mental illness, claustrophobia, and a recent bout of PTSD from the burglary. She has a small selection of coping skills from CBT sessions that don’t seem to help her cope very well, and medication that’s better than nothing but doesn’t help as well as it could. She feels very solid, very real, and likable. She’s a grounded character. And this makes her horrific adventure all the more harrowing. We, the readers, are already rooting for her and invested in her well being.
“The Woman in Cabin 10” is a pretty traditional “was there a crime or is the crazy lady crazy” story, set amid Agatha Christie-style “closed room” (or isolated ship) opulence. If there was a murder, after all, the murderer couldn’t easily get off the ship. Especially since the passenger list, and crew, of the “boutique” (small) ship are likewise small. Meanwhile, there’s swarovski crystal, raw silk, and plush carpet everywhere Lo turns, leaving her feeling a bit out of her element.