Friday, January 20, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10Guys, I have a confession to make.  I lied to you.  Idol wasn't the first book I finished in 2017.  The Woman in Cabin 10 was.  I just forgot about it because I'm terrible at writing reviews in a timely manner.

Anyway, I got this through Book of the Month and decided to read it as the FIRST BOOK of my 2017 Reading Challenge, as "A book recommended by a librarian."  It was recommended on the Library Reads website.  It's one of those psychological thriller books, and takes place almost entirely on a boat.

Main character Lo wakes up one night after some heavy drinking to discover that she's being burgled.  The burglar locks her in her room and it takes her a few hours to get out, and though overall unhurt (she does get a cut on her cheek from a slamming door, but it was unintentional) she's pretty understandably shaken up.  It gives her a serious case of ongoing insomnia, in which she can't sleep because she's afraid the burglar is going to come back.  Eventually she seeks refuge at her boyfriend's flat, as he's out of town, only to wake up thinking she's being attacked--and smashing the hell out of his face with a lamp.  He actually takes it pretty well, but it becomes clear through other things that their relationship is in a bit of an iffy spot.  And in the midst of it all, Lo takes off for a week-long cruise on the luxury yacht Aurora Borealis, which she's covering for the travel magazine she works for while her boss is on maternity leave.  But the Aurora is small, lending to Lo's claustrophobia, and her insomnia continues, so she self-medicates with lots and lots of alcohol on top of the anti-anxiety medication she already takes.

And then she hears a murder.

The only problem with this is, the girl who was murdered--the one who was next door to her, in Cabin 10, who Lo asked to borrow mascara earlier in the night--never existed.  There was no one booked in Cabin 10.  No one of the girl's description is on the boat.  And Lo can't get anyone to believe her that it happened, except her ex-boyfriend who is also on the cruise, but he's looking mighty suspicious himself.  And someone is certainly trying their hardest to get Lo to "STOP DIGGING."  Interspersed with all of this are emails and other sorts of documents, letting us know that Lo hasn't been heard from by her friends and family back in the UK for days, and that a body was found...

This was a good book.  It's a quick read and pretty light despite the dark subject matter.  I had fun trying to figure out who the murderer was, and got that bit right though the details of the plot I got wrong--the plot itself is a bit twisty, though the killer isn't.  What annoyed me here was that Ware was kind of trying to make Lo out as an unreliable narrator, and she's not.  But how does Ware go about doing this?  By making Lo into a drinker.  This seems like such an out.  Want an unreliable narrator?  Add alcohol!  They'll always be drunk and never really know what was real and what they imagined!  Ha ha!  It seems like a cheap trick.  I enjoyed how it was done in Girl on the Train, because there was outright manipulation there along with the alcohol, but this was a bit cut-and-dry for my tastes.  And the ending...did it seem a little too happy to anyone else?  I would have been happy without the last few pages, leaving a little mystery as to what exactly happened on the Aurora.  It was also a bit rushed in general, in comparison to the rest of the book.  So many other events took so much time, when they weren't even as major, and yet Lo's flight only takes up a handful of pages, at most.

The documents were definitely a nice touch.  It let us see into the future a bit, and work up a true dread of what might be coming.  We know Lo is fine at the time we're reading...but by the time those documents are taking place, something else has clearly happened, and I was left peering between the lines, looking for any hint of what might be coming.  And while I found Lo's drinking to be a bit tiresome, I found the reasons behind it realistic.  I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to find an intruder in your house, in your private space, even if you do get away unscathed.  Yes, it could have been so much worse--but honestly, should we denigrate Lo for being upset even though it wasn't worse?  No.  I don't think we should.  It's certainly something that would keep me up at night, tuned in for any little noise that might make itself heard.

Overall, I really liked this one.  The alcohol part of Lo's characterization was a bit tired, with nothing new or twisty added to it, and I saw who the murderer was pretty easily, but the details of that were the fascinating part.  The ending could have done with some work, though.  This is one where I wouldn't have minded being left wondering.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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