Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10


Agatha Christie with more millennial sadness and less detectives.

Journalist Lo Blacklock is being given the opportunity of a lifetime. Her pregnant boss is unable to take a journey on a luxury cruise and has tapped her to go in her place. Not only could this be the boost in her career needs, it also may be the perfect remedy for her nerves which are currently shot due to her apartment being broken into a few days earlier. What can make life better than a week vacation on a beautiful, exclusive cruise to see the Aurora Borealis?

Things often get worse before they get better, and the cruise is no exception. Lo’s trip starts pleasantly until she is woken one night to a scream and a splash; a noise she can only describe as a body being thrown overboard. The only problem is when she reports what she heard, there is no one missing from the ship, guests or crew. Has someone died? Is this an elaborate cover up? Has her break-in put her on the edge and caused her to imagine it? Lo has to find out quickly if it’s all in her head or, if she is the next target.

The Woman in Cabin 10 has an absolutely fantastic premise. It’s a modern day Agatha Christie plot in a way; a dozen or so people trapped in a confined space where a murder has occurred and one of them must be the killer. While I found the general premise and the mystery aspects of this book to be compelling, it is bogged down a bit by the character of Lo Blacklock. It’s hard to critique Lo as a character because she’s suffered trauma and that has caused her decision making skills to really plummet but my god she was annoying. She made every terrible decision humanly possible for someone 1. quietly investigating a potential murderer and 2. as a human being in general. I blame a lot of this on Ware going far too overboard when presenting Lo’s faults. Had she simply been a woman suffering from anxiety and reeling emotionally from a break in, we as readers could have sympathized with her and her decisions. I found that by the author adding in the drinking element to her character, she piled on unnecessary traits that took her from sympathetic to outright annoying.

The book tries its best to be a Agatha Christie style whodunit, but fails in that there’s no detective character in the book. I think Ware intended Lo to be the one filling that role, except she blabs her story to EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER, so there’s no real sleuthing to be had. Lo, a woman who has trust issues and anxiety, shouldn’t as a character, go around telling everyone WHO ARE SUSPECTS every thought she has regarding the alleged murder. This is where the book fails in setting up a compelling mystery. It tells you what’s happening rather than letting it unfold. Also all the red herring characters the murderer could be were insanely boring; had I not written down who was who I would never be able to tell the male characters apart. Laura is the only character that ever gets a mention of a personality, and it makes it harder to connect with the book.

I loved the premise and I loved the inserts between chapters which were emails, news clippings and message board posts searching for the missing Lo Blackstock. Those elements kept me interested in reading to the end to figure out who the murderer was, but Lo as a character just pulled this whole book down for me. I do want to try another of Ware’s books however, in the hopes that I just didn’t like the character and it doesn’t reflect too badly on her writing.

Also, no women share mascara. It’s literally the only makeup product you should never share. C’mon now.

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
ISBN:  9781501132957

Three descriptions: Menacing, Atmospheric, Flawed

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