Ruth Ware set her mystery, The Woman in Cabin 10, primarily aboard a small luxury cruise ship traveling into the fjords of Norway. Our main character is Lo Blacklock, a socially awkward London-based journalist. She scored a trip on the ship’s inaugural journey from England to Norway since her boss can’t be there. And almost everyone on the ship is from the press, including Lo’s ex-lover, Ben. Having recently endured an intruder in her home, Lo is on edge.
On the first night, Lo dresses for the first of several formal dinners. She realizes that in her rush to pack for the journey, she forgot her mascara. So she does what any desperate woman would do, she knocks on the cabin nearest hers and asks to borrow a tube from the woman who answers. (Never mind basic hygiene!) The woman gladly gives her the mascara and tells Lo to keep it.
Off Lo heads to the event, but surprisingly the woman isn’t there. In fact, many hours later, she hears some unsettling noises coming from that cabin. She alerts the crew and thus the gaslighting begins. Everyone tells Lo that the cabin is unoccupied and has never had a passenger. But Lo knows this isn’t true and she sets out to prove it, hopefully helping the kind, mascara-lending woman in the process.
This is a quick and absorbing book. I listened to the audiobook, while also grabbing the occasional chapter from my print copy. And that method means I reach the ending more quickly, which the story warranted.
This is my first book by Ruth Ware, and I will read more of her work in the future. She creates an intriguing setting with tricky characterizations. Lo and her constant need for approval get tiresome, but I admired her pluck and persistence.
However, I never trusted the way Lo describes the other passengers since Ware tells the story only from her point of view. The people around Lo don’t trust her either, partly because she takes medicine for depression. Their perspective is antiquated since these medicines are common today. But it serves a purpose in the story, I suppose.
Ware uses Lo’s mental health and post-attack trauma to illustrate issues most women encounter at one time or another. Both topics are often in the news and make Lo more sympathetic, even while her frantic figuring amps up the story’s tension.
Ware propels her story forward, just as the cruise ship moves from place to place. The rocky seas and typical onboard activities like copious drinking ring true. But I anticipated some parts of the resolution, rather than being completely surprised with the final twists.
Still, it was a fun diversion for a few days and a strong introduction to Ware’s writing style.