“In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…”
My Thoughts: As with so many other thrillers these days, The Woman in Cabin 10 is yet another example of a potential unreliable narrator used to present mysterious occurrences. While this may be a tired trope, Ms. Ware makes it work. Mainly, she never hides the fact that Lo has emotional and psychological problems. Readers are aware of her shortcomings and reliance on medication to still her fears. As a result, there is no doubt that her perspective will be skewed. Confirming this perspective are the short asides from Lo’s family and friends indicating that there is a disconnect between what we see happening on the cruise ship with what is being reported in London. All of it shows that Lo’s version of events is not to be trusted.
Yet, even though there is a multitude of evidence to the contrary, one cannot help but trust Lo in her observations. There is no doubt she is terribly frightened by what she saw and heard and confused by the lack of satisfactory answers. At the same time, Lo has an earnestness about her that inclines one to believe her. She does not want to be frightened anymore. She wants to be healthy and happy. She does not want to feel like a victim . The fact that she keeps finding more evidence to prove her case even though she wants it all to go away is an indicator that perhaps Lo is not as unreliable as readers are initially lead to believe.
Ms. Ware takes this conundrum Lo presents, adds in the luxurious but claustrophobic confines of a cruise ship and sets the cruise ship atop a frigid sea, thereby shifting the tone to an ominous one in which you are just as anxious as Lo to get back to land. In this regard, the setting is vital. Had the story taken place in a luxury hotel, the feel of the novel would be different, and the urgency Lo feels considerably less. Ms. Ware knows how to use all the tools available to her to strike the right note within her story and does so effectively.
The Woman in Cabin 10 is a strong thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. Lo is an excellent blend of fragile and fierce, and watching her overcome the fears instilled in her from her past experiences is rewarding. While the ending is a bit too neat, this in no way diminishes one’s enjoyment of it. Given its setting in the North Sea, it is an entertaining choice for cooling off on those hot summer days.