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January 2020: Thriller > [Bingo] The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, 3.5 Stars

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Heather Reads Books (gothicgunslinger) | 466 comments The Woman in Cabin 10 has an interesting premise, a unique setting, and an eclectic cast of characters, but ultimately its execution is not as taut and compelling as Ware's later title The Turn of the Key. I was hoping for a good thriller and whodunit reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express, but that's not quite what I got.

The Woman in Cabin 10 opens with its protagonist, Laura "Lo" Blacklock, being burgled. This takes up a significant portion of the front of the book, and doesn't factor in much to the rest of the story. Still, in that time, we learn a lot about Lo: she's kind of a mess. She's in her early 30s, still waiting for a big break at the travel magazine where she works, and has seems to have some serious issues with insomnia and alcohol. I'm a big fan of flawed leads, especially women that defy stereotypical definitions of "strong female protagonist," and Lo is definitely that. However, this worked to her detriment a lot in this novel. Since she is a journalist, I expected her investigative skills to be a little more honed, but she lets a lot of opportunities pass her by, to the point where I think the narrative suffered for it.

The main crux of the story is the cruise Lo takes aboard the Aurora, a small luxury liner owned by a super rich British businessman and member of the peerage, Richard Bullmer. Bullmer is showing off the Aurora and all it has to offer to high rollers and travel journalists, hoping to drum up business for the ship's cruise through the North Sea to Scandinavia. Right away, however, something odd happens: Lo briefly encounters a passenger in Cabin 10, only to discover her disappearance later that night. Convinced she heard a scream and a splash, Lo becomes convinced the woman in Cabin 10 has been murdered. The catch: as the ship's security officer shows her, Cabin 10 is empty. There was never a woman in Cabin 10. I loved this premise, and I was the most engaged with the novel when Lo was trying to figure out how the heck this was possible, with the politely beleaguered head of security in tow. Did a crime really occur, or is Lo simply an unreliable narrator?

Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't come together as well as I'd hoped for with the setup. We're introduced to a large cast of possible suspects, but most of them are entirely inconsequential, not even lending plausible motives for a murder of a woman no one seems to remember. The majority of the time Lo could have spent following leads she mostly just wanders around, wallowing in feelings of self-doubt and medicating with alcohol. Then, later, when the action has ramped up, I felt oddly removed from the narrative parts that should have been the most gripping. (view spoiler) The mystery's solution itself becomes highly convoluted and I had a difficult time following much of its logic.

Still, it was an entertaining book, refreshing in its premise and with strong writing. The author really excels at setting unique stages for her action. The Aurora itself is arguably the most striking character in the novel. I still think as a novel, The Turn of the Key is far superior, but I'm interested enough in Ruth Ware to check out her other books, even if this one wasn't my favorite.


message 2: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3394 comments I thought In A Dark Dark Wood was 'meh' but I loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway so I have been anxious to read this and see where it falls for me..


message 3: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 7414 comments I agree with much of your review on this one. I believe Ware is still developing as a writer. I particularly like how she takes such traditional mystery formats and gives them a modern twist, as here, the tradional snowbound houseparty murder is set on a luxury yacht at sea. I also like that she does standalones, not series. That allows for more exploration.


Heather Reads Books (gothicgunslinger) | 466 comments Meli wrote: "I thought In A Dark Dark Wood was 'meh' but I loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway so I have been anxious to read this and see where it falls for me.."

I have In a Dark, Dark Wood out from the library, but I'm not sure I'm going to read it at the moment since this one wasn't my favorite. I REALLY loved her new one, The Turn of the Key. That's the best thriller I've read in recent memory.


Heather Reads Books (gothicgunslinger) | 466 comments Theresa wrote: "I agree with much of your review on this one. I believe Ware is still developing as a writer. I particularly like how she takes such traditional mystery formats and gives them a modern twist, as he..."

I agree! I think The Turn of the Key really improved upon a lot of the elements I saw in The Woman in Cabin 10. I think Ruth Ware is doing some cool experiments with the genre. Her work feels a lot fresher to me than some of the other thrillers I've read recently that hit all the same predictable notes.


message 6: by NancyJ (last edited Jan 19, 2020 10:15PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5572 comments I think my reaction to this book was similar to yours, but nevertheless many scenes from the book have really stayed with me a long time. I don’t think I’ll be able to say that about the book I just reviewed.

In the dark dark woods scared me the most though. It reminded me of babysitting in a secluded old house in Greenwich, CT. It was in the woods and I always felt like someone was outside looking in.


Heather Reads Books (gothicgunslinger) | 466 comments NancyJ wrote: "I think my reaction to this book was similar to yours, but nevertheless many scenes from the book have really stayed with me a long time. I don’t think I’ll be able to say that about the book I jus..."

Ooooh, I grew up in Connecticut, so I know exactly what you mean! New England has a creepiness to it I've not noticed elsewhere, lol. Maybe I will give In a Dark, Dark Wood a shot while I have it. I've been waffling on it since I have other books demanding my attention and this would be my third Ruth Ware read in the last couple of months, and I don't usually stick with one author that long. Her books move fast for me, so maybe I can fit it in.


message 8: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3822 comments I liked the 'locked room' aspect of this one-being on a cruise ship limits the possibilities and outside factors. Somehow didn't realize this was the same author as The Death of Mrs. Westaway... I guess they both have the dark tone. Haven't read any of her others, but they are on my radar!


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