Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

When I was in middle school, I was addicted to those trashy Point Horror stories for kids. They always had a similar premise: a group of kids get together for a party. Everything's fun and games until someone gets murdered. The kids, rather than being sensible and going to the authorities, take it upon themselves to solve the murder themselves, acting totally surprised when more murders happen. The book ends when the murderer, usually the last person you would expect and therefore the person you totally suspect, finally gets caught, and everybody else lives happily ever after. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 was just like that, except for adults.

I'm a bit skeptical of these dysfunctional lady thrillers. The popularity of Gillian Flynn, specifically GONE GIRL, has had all these other mystery writers clamoring and going, "Me too! Me too!" The last one I read was GIRL ON THE TRAIN was so disappointing to me (seriously, what the eff?) that I gave up on these mysteries for a while. The only reason I picked this one up was because it was chosen for my book club.

To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10. It has that throwback Agatha Christie feeling to it (or that Point Horror feel to it, if you're cheesy and camp, like me), which I loved. The fact it takes place on a ship instead of an isolated mansion makes it unique and even more claustrophobic-feeling, because you can escape from a mansion somewhat easily - it's hard to escape from a boat that's traversing through freezing-cold water.

The heroine, Lo Blacklock, finds that out firsthand when she witnesses what she thinks is a murder aboard the luxury ship she's supposed to be reporting on for the paper she writes for. The only problem is that the cabin she saw the murder in isn't occupied and nobody has laid eyes on the woman that Lo claims to have seen. She begins to doubt herself - and the fact that she has been drinking and has anxiety and PTSD does not help with her credibility - but then sinister things start happening to Lo, almost like someone is warning her off. The journalist in Lo is fatalistically intrigued. Who was the girl in cabin 10? And why would someone want her dead?

Comparisons to GIRL ON THE TRAIN are inevitable, because they are both about dysfunctional ladies with poor credibility who see something that they oughtn't to have seen and try to raise the alarm without being murdered themselves (somewhat unsuccessfully). Both heroines are also very unlikable and feature in storylines where suspension of disbelief is necessary. The difference is that GIRL ON THE TRAIN wallows in the unlikability of its main character and relies on relationship drama and emotional manipulation to keep the story moving, whereas THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 winks heavily at the audience as it checks off cliche after cliche, and has some genuinely suspenseful moments. My biggest gripe was the abrupt ending, which seemed far too neat. If you, like me, were disillusioned by GIRL ON THE TRAIN, I recommend that you pick this one up.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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