The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware, author; Imogen Church, narrator
Expertly written by the author, this psychological thriller will captivate the reader from page one and will not let go until the last page ends with a very satisfying conclusion. Although the tension builds throughout, the author inserts a bit of humor, now and then, to ease its grasp. Imogen Church narrates the book so well that I felt I could hear each character speaking without any difficulty at all. Her interpretation of their personalities and speech patterns felt very authentic.
Laura Blacklock is a reporter for a travel magazine called Velocity. After ten years with the company and a rather stagnant career path, her future begins to look brighter when her boss suddenly gives her the opportunity to go on the maiden voyage of a luxury boutique cruise ship, called the Aurora Borealis. She won’t let anything stand in her way. This is her opportunity to make contacts and write a piece that will prove her talent to others and finally help her up the ladder at the magazine. Even though she is on edge from a recent terrifying burglary in her apartment, she insists on going.
When she boards the ship, she is struck by its opulence. This ship was not built to ferry ordinary people around. It is only for the very rich and the very famous. Looking around, she recognizes others in her profession. She sees an ex-beau who is a reporter and also engages in a conversation with a prominent photographer. She learns that both the ship’s owner and his wife are on board, which is unusual; generally, his wife does not accompany him because she has been ill and is undergoing cancer treatment.
As Laura dresses for dinner on the first evening, she realizes that her mascara is missing from her makeup bag. She remembers it had been in the handbag that was stolen from her apartment on that frightening night she had surprised a burglar in her flat. A bit brazenly, she goes next door to the cabin marked 10 Palmgren, and knocks, hoping someone in there will be kind enough to lend her a mascara tube. After waiting and getting no response, she gives one final bang to the door expecting to fail in her quest. Instead, she sees a pretty, young woman in a Pink Floyd t-shirt. She does not appear very happy to see Laura standing there, and a bit coldly, she agrees to give her a mascara, insisting that she does not want it returned.
Later that night, Laura is awakened by a loud sound that she thinks is a scream coming from the cabin next door, and she thinks she hears the very loud sound of a huge splash in the water. Rushing to the veranda window, she looks down and thinks she sees a body floating downward. Looking up again, she sees what could be a bloody handprint on the glass of the veranda. She begins to wonder, is she herself now in danger? Was anyone aware of her presence there on her veranda?
As she attempts to report what she thinks she heard and saw, she has little success. She is told and shown that the cabin next door is apparently empty and always has been. There was never a passenger in that room for he had canceled. As she watches pieces of evidence about the event disappear, her own antennae are raised higher. Although the man in charge of security seems to doubt her account of events, he shows her around the ship in search of anyone on the staff who might have known or seen the mystery woman. Having no luck there, she begins to wonder about the other passengers on the ship. Had any of them been involved? Could they have seen the woman? Might someone else have heard something? Why had she disappeared? If the room was unoccupied, why had she seen the girl’s clothes strewn around? As she continues to investigate on her own, the odd behavior of the passengers and their “alibis” begin to seem more suspicious to her. She suspects each one in turn. Surely someone knew or had seen the young girl in the Pink Floyd t-shirt in cabin 10!
Was someone really thrown overboard? Had anyone seen Laura as she witnessed this event? Would she be the next victim? Was there really even a victim? Had she been dreaming? Was she so drunk that she had a hallucination? Was it a paranoid delusion? Because the ship had been having problems with their technology, her phone had no service. She was unable to contact anyone on the outside to report what she believed she saw, or to make a report for the magazine that she so hoped would be the harbinger of her future success. She could also not reach anyone to ask for help! She was totally isolated from everyone. When Laura does not contact anyone, her friends and family begin to raise alarms about her whereabouts. A second narrative, behind the scenes, is interjected sporadically through the book. It keeps the reader on tenterhooks. Those outside the world of the ship have no idea what is going on inside it, and in the same way, Laura has no idea what is going on beyond the confines of this magnificent floating vessel.
I must admit I listened to this book almost straight through, stopping only to sleep for a few hours. I had to find out if there was indeed a diabolical murderer on board or if Laura was dreaming or imagining everything she thought had happened. There were twists and turns taking me in one direction or another, bouncing me about in my suspicions in much the same way that Laura was being tossed, suspecting one passenger than another, one staff member than another.
There seemed to be so many random clues, but they pointed in many different directions. It was hard to know which were real and which might be products of Laura’s own imagination due to her extreme emotional state. The suspense was palpable as Laura thought about each passenger in turn, as her conversations with them revealed secrets and further doubts to her. The misdirection was really effective.
This mystery novel, written by a British author is done very well. There are a few minor glitches but what made it so good was the actual absence of the foul language and unnecessary titillating sex which is so prevalent in the work of many American authors today, perhaps to seem cool or for shock value. It was simply a great mystery. Without cheap devices, the author has created a book that is gripping as it explores and exposes what is going on in the mind of Laura Blacklock as she attempts to solve a crime she thinks has been committed, although there is no proof. It places the reader right there on the ship with her. From start to finish, this is a really good, entertaining read for anyone who loves a good psychological thriller!