The Woman in Cabin 10 is a mystery/thriller story of a travel writer’s nightmarish cruise. Lo Blacklock witnesses a murder, someone is thrown overboard in the night. However, all passengers are accounted for, leaving Lo to wonder if she is going mad or if there is a plot against her after what she witnessed.
Here is my spoiler-free review of The Woman in Cabin 10!
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A Short Summary
Lo Blacklock, a travel writer, is asked by her boss to cover a new luxury cruise, the Aurora on its maiden voyage. It’s a high-profile cruise, with finery adorning every room and only a handful of guests. It seems like an opportunity of a lifetime, but it has a rocky start.
Before Lo can even step on the Aurora, she tries to manage her sanity after being burgled. It was a traumatic experience and Lo’s mind was already fragile enough. Despite this, she does not plan to miss out on this opportunity and boards the ship.
Only, it turns out to be a bad idea, because after all the fine dinings and strange conversations with the rich and famous, Lo wakes up in the night to hear a scream and a splash. Lo witnesses someone being thrown overboard, a murder in these cold waters.
Yet, when she tries to report this, believing the victim to be the woman in cabin 10, she finds cabin 10 empty. She learns that everyone is accounted for on the voyage and nobody knows the woman she speaks of.
You, as well as Lo, are left wondering if she is going mad or if there is a devilish plot aboard the Aurora.
First, we have Lo Blacklock. Lo is a travel reporter who is not in the best state, to say the least. Lo is troubled constantly with indecisions, trauma and depression. Therapy barely covers these problems and certainly doesn’t prepare her for the horrors she encounters throughout the book.
Now, since this is a murder mystery, I will discuss some important characters in the plot without giving much away, Simple descriptions from here on.
Ben Howard is Lo’s ex and a reporter also on this cruise. He is a weasel of a man, untrustworthy on the best day.
Richard and Anne Bullmer are the host and hostess aboard the Aurora. Richard is an educated man who fought for his wealth and standing. Anne is his wife, a much more successful woman, yet suffering from cancer.
Cole Lederer is a dashing photographer who is on the rebound after discovering his wife sleeping with his best friend.
Johann Nilsson is one of the staff assigned to Lo’s cabin, being there to help her with anything she needs and also being the one she discusses the murder with first.
Every character feels like they could kill someone, but at the same time, they don’t. It’s an Agatha Christie situation, but there isn’t an intelligent detective to save the day. It’s all on Lo’s shoulders and she doesn’t know who to trust.
Ruth Ware has a straightforward writing style, but that doesn’t stop her from establishing a clear atmosphere. As this is a mystery/thriller, from beginning to end she ensures that the tone is negative, adding to that foreboding feeling.
I have only read one of Ruth’s books, so I don’t know if this is a part of her style or because of the mental state of the characters, but there are many mental monologues from beginning to end. If I was to draw a negative, it would be the repetition of some points, but it can also be argued that this is hammering home the mentality that Lo has throughout the book.
With that said, here are...
My Thoughts on The Woman in Cabin 10
I noticed from the first chapters the strategies that Ruth employs to establish the atmosphere. There needs to be a negative feeling to almost every encounter, to every description, to maintain this feeling of dread and discomfort.
It’s a technique that I admire in this kind of fiction because it keeps the moments where the reader relaxes to a minimum. There is an insecure feeling that anything might happen, which Ruth underlines often to ensure she gets her point across.
With that said, the beginning stages didn’t give me that skin-crawling feeling, despite the common fear of the unknown. Instead, I constantly played the detective, trying to piece the mystery together, rather than feel the helplessness that Lo feels.
That changed in the final act.
I won’t spoil what happens, but in the final act, the story went away that drew attention to a phobia of mine. If not a phobia, certainly something that makes me feel that shortness-of-breath sort of uncomfortable. Or perhaps, I simply feel most fear when the character is confronted by a threat rather than worried about being surprised by a threat around every corner.
Stepping away from the story, let me talk about the characters.
Almost all of the characters are unlikeable, but of course, that is by design. As I said, the silver linings are rare and often short-lived to give this dark atmosphere. Yet, I wanted at many points for Lo to step up and show serious, aggressive bravery.
Characters that are caught in a negative spiral and go with this flow tend to get on my nerves. The most compelling characters are the ones who develop, find strength in themselves and start saying, “I can do it!” rather than hiding under a blanket.
Thankfully, Lo never went so far that she came off as a no-hoper. She did develop, she did grow and I was very happy to see it.
If you enjoy twisting stories with a dark atmosphere, then you will enjoy reading The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!