“A weekend partying at a remote cabin is just what Mackenzie needs. She can’t wait to let loose with her friends. But a crazy night of fun leaves two of them dead—murdered.
With no signs of a forced entry or struggle, suspicion turns to the five survivors. Someone isn’t telling the truth. And Mackenzie’s first mistake? Assuming the killing is over…”
My Thoughts: A locked cabin. A group of friends who have known each other for years. A no-parents weekend. Two dead bodies. This has all the hallmarks of an outstanding murder mystery. Unfortunately, the execution is weak, the characters are even weaker, and the ending…well, the ending is one of the lowest points of the entire novel.
The main problems lie with the narrative flow as well as with the lack of character development. The story itself is choppy. Told through the first-person narrator, you expect some issues with continuity; after all, the human brain rarely, if ever, thinks in complete, coherent sentences. However, the issues with Mackenzie’s narration go beyond that. For one, you never really get to know Mackenzie. Her thoughts remain superficial. There is a distinct lack of intimacy in spite of seeing everything from her point of view. Second, her emotions are wildly erratic, shifting from giddy to depressed in a matter of a few sentences. Lastly, she is not intelligent. You understand that she is naive and too trusting; it is a major plot point because she cannot fathom how one of her long-time friends is capable of executing a double murder. However, this goes beyond that. She not only jumps to conclusions based on one piece of information, but she feels she is more capable of discovering the truth than the police. Her actions are unnecessary and irritating.
The lack of character development does not stop with Mackenzie. Everyone who goes to the cabin remains as one-dimensional as possible. Moreover, other than at the cabin, which is just a small section of the story, they are not together. You never see the group dynamic long enough to be able to discern clues about the killer. The information you do get is highly tainted because it is from Mackenzie’s point of view, and it is well-established that she views everyone through rose-tinted glasses. This proves to be frustrating because in murder mysteries, you want answers and Ms. Preston provides none. Something as simple as an understanding why the detectives are so cold would go a long way towards establishing a connection between character and reader. What few answers we do get come too late in the story to remedy the situation, and your interest has long since waned.
The novel is frustrating enough, and then you reach the conclusion. The unveiling of the murderer is anticlimactic and utterly unappealing. By that time, Ms. Preston has thrown so many red herrings at you that you no longer care who actually did the deed. The worst part is that she does not stop there. To make an uninteresting resolution completely infuriating, she throws in a plot twist so over the top that it will make you want to commit violence to the book. One can see what she was trying to do, but she completely fails to succeed and ends up creating a lasting highly unfavorable impression.
The Cabin seems like it is going to be an excellent locked-door murder mystery, the kind with interesting character dynamics, and a thrilling denouement that exposes the killer in the nick of time. Sadly, it is anything but that. Instead, we have a rushed murder mystery with an insipid heroine, a serious lack of character development that prevents you from observing the group dynamics, a frustrating lack of answers, and an annoying conclusion. Of the very popular murder mystery/suspense/thriller genre in literature, The Cabin is a poor example and therefore worth avoiding.