Ruth Ware’s The Woman In Cabin 10 is a terrific murder mystery novel with an added twist. The twist is that we are not sure if a murder really took place. The only “witness” is an excitable young woman who was high on prescription drugs and alcohol when she supposedly heard the murder.
The setting for the “murder” is a small luxury cruise ship at sea. Like Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, this means that the list of suspects is limited to passengers and crew.
The heroine of the story is travel writer Lo Blacklock, who has been given the once in a lifetime assignment of traveling and reporting on the maiden voyage of the luxury ship Aurora. Unlike the giant cruise liners catering to the masses, the Aurora has only 10 cabins, and is designed to serve an exclusive clientele of billionaires.
Unfortunately, Lo is recovering from a a recent break-in at her London flat, where she was confronted and attacked by the thief. Ever since that traumatic event, she has been shaky, and consuming more alcohol than is good for her.
Getting ready for dinner the first night of the cruise, Lo realizes that she has forgotten her mascara. She borrows some from an angry young woman in the #10; the cabin next door. Many hours later, after a night of eating and drinking, Lo is in bed when she hears a scream from cabin 10. Going to balcony facing the sea, Lo is sure there is a body in the water.
When Lo reports the crime, she is told that there never was a passenger in Cabin 10, and that none of the crew are missing. Either there is a conspiracy, or the stresses of Lo’s life have become too much to deal with and she has hallucinated the whole event.
The Woman In Cabin 10 shares many similarities with The Girl On The Train. In both stories, the heroine is a fragile but determined woman fighting internal and external demons. We loved The Woman In Cabin 10. Anyone can be a hero when you are strong and confident and trusted by all around you. But what can you do to summon up courage for an emergency when just making it through every day life is an ordeal?
Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10. It is a classic mystery story where all the clues are given, but the reader still cannot guess the ending. The setting is also wonderful. A luxury ship sailing the Nordic fjords, where the cliffs are so high that they block the cell phone and internet access that could be used to call for help. Whatever is going on, the frail young Lo Blacklock is definitely on her own. If the murder did not happen, she is going crazy. If she is sane, that means Lo is the only witness to a murder. And the killer is still on the ship.