The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: Review
Today on The Tattooed Book I review The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware’s second novel, following her debut In a Dark, Dark Wood.
Lo Blacklock has been offered the career opportunity of a lifetime to review a luxury Scandinavian cruise of the Aurora. Normally she would be passed by for such a lavish assignment but thanks to her boss’ pregnancy sickness, Lo has a chance to prove she can do more than cut and paste press releases.
Her big break is almost scuppered before it’s even started when a stranger breaks into her flat and locks her in her bedroom while he ransacks her home. Shaken, sleep-deprived and traumatised by the situation, she decides she can’t let the chance to prove herself pass and she insists she’s fit to attend the cruise.
At first, Lo’s slightly underwhelmed by the size of the cruise ship waiting to take the carefully selected group of journalists, investors, celebrities and billionaires to view the Aurora, but once aboard her mind is changed completely. She’s blown away by the gold and crystal that make up every chandelier, the silk that covers every surface and the opulence in every detail.
While getting ready for her first evening aboard the cruise she comes to realise that some of her makeup was in the handbag that was stolen during the break-in. She knocks on the door of her neighbouring cabin and the stunning young lady that answers insists on giving her a mascara to keep.
That night, after a few drinks and still suffering from an overwhelming lack of sleep, Lo hears a loud splash, instantly thinking of it as ‘the kind of splash made by a body hitting water.’ She rushes to the balcony but all she can see is what appears to be a smear of blood on the glass of the cabin beside hers. Worried for the safety of the young lady she met earlier that night she raises the alarm to the ship’s security. The officer that takes her report insists that no one is scheduled to stay in cabin 10 and taking in her dishevelled state, it’s obvious he doesn’t believe her. He tells her that it must have been one of the crew and that he’ll take her to meet them all in the morning. But Lo knows what she saw; the girl wasn’t crew, she had clothes and toiletries in the room, there was no way she was a cleaner.
The next day Lo is introduced to all of the ship’s staff but none of the women look like the lady she saw in cabin 10 and her description doesn’t sound familiar to any of them. The only evidence Lo has that the girl even existed is the mascara; when that goes missing she starts to doubt herself. Could stress, lack of sleep and general exhaustion really play that cruel a trick on her?
No, even though everyone else doubts her, she decides she knows what she saw and no one can make her think otherwise. Aware that she’s still got a job to do, Lo visits the beauty spa for her scheduled press visit. Although she struggles with the claustrophobia of the small treatment room below deck, she eventually gives in to the relaxation of a mud wrap and falls asleep. She wakes to the sound of the shower running and the steam reveals a threat written on the mirror. Someone knows she’s been asking questions and they want her to stop.
The Woman in Cabin 10 is a slower-paced crime novel that, instead of whisking you along, deliberately lays out the clues and gives you time to ponder your own conclusions (and if you guess the outcome then you’re a far better investigator than me!). I did find it slightly hard to connect with Lo, she remains so calm and takes a lot of disbelieving comments on the chin. She does spend most of the novel very anxious, unsurprisingly so (especially as she is on medication to treat it) but I feel some fluctuations to her mood could have had a positive impact on this book. I wanted her furious at being ignored, I wanted her more suspicious of the people around her, angry at her disconnection from the outside world and fearful that her life might be in danger.
Later on in The Woman in Cabin 10, brief chapters made up of social media and news reports from the near future are included, insinuating the outcome. I really enjoyed the addition of these as it added extra tension and an insight into what was happening on land while Lo was aboard the ship.
The Woman in Cabin 10 is the perfect book for people looking for something on the darker side of cosy crime. I’d recommend this book to readers of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, as it is easy to see her influence in the pacing and structure. The ending has a clever twist and the story keeps you entertained throughout but I couldn’t help but left wanting a little bit more personality from Lo.
If you like this then you’ll love The Child by Fiona Barton.