Book Club Review April 2017: The Woman in Cabin 10

April 2017 – The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

blog by Cindy Bushey

Zion’s readers couldn’t wait to get started with our discussion of April’s choice The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware!  We were back on familiar turf with murder and mayhem as one reader put it, and this appealed to quite a few of us.  The story opens with a bang as a young female British journalist awakens to the realization that her apartment has been invaded as she sleeps.  She opens her bedroom door to see the masked intruder standing there.  Heart-stopping terror, the kind that makes a reader’s heart beat faster as muscles clench in anticipation of what is sure to come.  Which was. . . nothing; the intruder left with Laura Blacklock’s purse and her peace of mind.

Despite her trauma, Lo Blacklock proceeds with business plans to join a high-class cruise of the Norwegian fjords which she is to review for the travel magazine where she is employed.  It seems a chance not to be missed which could help her up the corporate ladder.  The elite boat has only 10 cabins for paying passengers, but the height of luxury is crammed into small spaces.  Reviewers often call this book claustrophobic with good reason.  The author’s descriptions of the close quarters can be difficult reading for those uncomfortable with confinement.  Having been placed in cabin 9 and drinking like a fish in order to steady her nerves, Lo awakes to suspicious noises and investigates cabin 10’s balcony.  She is sure she heard a scream, a large splash, and can see blood.  Her reports to the staff are downplayed due to her heavy drinking, prescription antidepressants, lack of evidence, and the fact that there was no passenger in cabin 10.   Convinced there was a murder, Lo continues to ask questions of passengers and crew members as the boat sails to remote rural areas.  She has no cell coverage, no wifi, and is extremely isolated.   The tension (another oft-used term by reviewers) escalates.

However, for some of our readers Lo was a completely unsympathetic character.  She was blowing her big opportunity with all the drinking, could never find the right words to express herself despite her profession, had a timid and insecure personality, and generally wasn’t likable or believable.  As one reader termed her, quite a “weak sister”.  The character, story, and style were similar to other books the group has read leading one reader to say The Woman in Cabin 10 was the third story in the trilogy that contains Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.  Another saw overtones of Fifty Shades of Gray without the sex, and many felt Ms. Ware took a great deal of inspiration from other authors.  There is evidently a market for flawed, feminine heroes, and this book hit all the right notes to land on numerous best seller lists.

Our readers followed Lo through the plot twists, trying to keep all the subsidiary characters straight as she edged closer and closer to a precipice.  It was almost a relief when the murderer was revealed although some of the situations that ensued were unbelievable.  Ms. Ware left many things unexplained, and the ending seemed to foreshadow a sequel.  While the plot was there, some of Zion’s readers felt the author did not successfully execute it.  Final opinions were varied – some readers really liked it, one reader felt the book was written with the aim of converting it to a movie, another characterized it as a good airplane read, and still another felt it was “240 pages of wasting time”, or even more succinctly – “it sucked”!    With such comments, it was no surprise that votes also spanned a spectrum.  We had six readers give it one thumb up, five were neutral, one gave it one thumb down, and two gave it two thumbs down.  If you like the Gone Girl genre, you would probably enjoy this book.  One of our readers has also read Ms. Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood and found that to be a better effort.  Perhaps the author has a firmer grasp on her plot and characters in that novel.