Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware
Scout Press     2016
340 pages     Thriller

It was a dark, very cold and snowy January day when I began The Woman in Cabin 10. I was all wrapped up in a blanket, the fire was blazing, and I was determined to put life at bay and read something totally absorbing. This was the perfect choice. What was good about The Woman in Cabin 10 was that I couldn't put the book down. It isn't great literature, but it sure did keep my heart pumping and my blood warm.  I had similar hopes when I read Ware's previous book, In A Dark, Dark Wood—and I was similarly underwhelmed, except to say that the setting is just as atmospheric in The Woman in Cabin 10 as it was In A Dark, Dark Wood. This time, however, the setting is a small cruise ship in the North Sea. 

Laura Blacklock (Lo to her friends) is a travel writer and is lucky enough to score a trip on the maiden voyage of the small ship, Aurora, to view the Northern Lights, to visit the Norwegian fjords, and the city of Trondheim. There are only ten cabins, and all but cabin 10 are filled with travel writers, photographers, and potential investors for the ship's owner, British Lord  Richard Bullmer. 

Before the voyage began, Lo experienced a robbery in her apartment; the most scary part of the robbery was that she was locked in her room for several hours. This event throws her completely off balance, so she enters the cruise ship sleepless, hung over, and anxious. We learn right away that she is an unreliable reporter, that she has a drinking problem and is dependent on anxiety medication. Almost immediately she is rattled again when she thinks that she hears a scream and someone being thrown overboard in Cabin 10, right next door to her room. Of course, no one believes her. It is a classic murder mystery setup, but in Lo's case, she cannot cease pursuing what she thinks happened, even when she is warned to stop searching for answers. Add to this the claustrophobia and the constant nausea coming from the lurching small ship, and you have a prescription for a very tense ride.

One reader suggested that the book involves a lot of gaslighting. I didn't know what that term meant, but apparently it refers to when a hysterical woman is manipulated into thinking that her own memory, perception and sanity can't be trusted. No matter how much the people on the boat try to gaslight Lo, she persists, and solves the crime. The last 50 pages or so are very tense, but the solution is a bit underwhelming and slightly disappointing. 

One of the problems I have had recently is finding anything to like about the women protagonists in mysteries that seem to be very popular. Certainly, I didn't like Rachel in The Girl on the Train, and Amy in Gone Girl, and I really didn't like the women In a Dark, Dark Wood. Now, here is another one with a truly unlikable protagonist. But, apparently they make great characters in movies, since all of these books have been made into movies. Probably The Woman in Cabin 10 will show up on the big screen as well. Ah well. So much for my opinion. 

Ruth Ware website.

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