The Woman in Cabin 10

Written by Ruth Ware — Originally released in June, The Woman in Cabin 10 missed out on a review here on Crime Fiction Lover but sold by the bucket. So with its paperback release this month we decided to read it and rate it.

Laura ‘Lo’ Blacklock wakes hungover to the sound of her cat scratching at the door. When she goes to let it in, to her surprise, she instead comes face to face with a latex glove-wearing home invader. The man snatches her purse, looks at her through a face-covering bandanna, and then leaves but not before locking her in her bedroom. The invasion knocks Lo off her square, sending her already booze-drenched and turbulent life into a deep tailspin.

Lo is set to take a maiden voyage on a luxury liner named The Northern Lights and she is going write a story about it for Velocity Magazine. She calls her editor to explain her absence from their meeting, due to the home invasion. The editor offers to take Lo off the job, but she insists on going, thinking to herself what the article might mean for her career. She leaves, but before before doing so has a freakout and breaks up with her boyfriend, Judah.

The Woman In Cabin 10 is another thriller joining the ranks of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. It’s a fast-paced whodunit, with a psychological angle and driven by an unreliable female narrator. Lo is the quintessential heroine for this type of book – a 32-year-old Londoner with a penchant for pills and alcohol. She feels slightly terrorised by the world around her and is seeking ‘that thing’ – possibly a man or career advancement – to pull her back together and alleviate her fears.

The first person narrative sometimes becomes a mixture of irrationality and female fantasy. There are many cringe-worthy moments, especially in the early setup of the book. The Woman in Cabin 10 is driven by stereotypes, especially a self-perpetuating female misogyny that sees women as unbalanced yet at the same time powerful. These stereotypes and contrivances are what make it work at first but after a while Lo’s hysterics are distracting and tiresome.

The luxury liner is the perfect claustrophobic space for Lo to confront herself. She is put in one of 10 numbered suites. Here she comes face to face with her neighbour, who is the book’s titular woman. When Lo knocks on cabin 10 looking to borrow some mascara, the woman, described as pretty and young and wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt, gifts her the beauty product while being curt and aloof.

Lo soon after witnesses the woman going overboard in the middle of the night and designates herself the amateur sleuth who will figure out the mystery. The crew claim the cabin was never occupied, but Lo knows otherwise and is determined to find out.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a good thriller about a woman piecing a mystery together as a way for her to also piece herself together. It starts off strong and fun but tends to drag as the story goes on. The structure is nearly identical to one used by Agatha Christie – someone, Lo in this case, claims a murder has occurred while everyone else denies or ignores it. The formula is tried and true. The book is quick despite the lagging moments, and easily consumable even if the end is not as satisfying as some others like it.

We talked to Ruth Ware about her favourite classic crime novels here, and also reviewed her previous book In a Dark, Dark Wood.

Harvill Secker
Print/Kindle/iBook
£3.85

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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