The Woman in Cabin 10|
Gallery/Scout Press, 2017, PB, 384 pp, $16.00
Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist for Velocity magazine. She gets a cushy assignment on a boutique luxury cruising ship and hopes it will boost her career. It is a maiden voyage for the Aurora Borealis, the owner hoping for good press to entice wealthy folks. It all seems very innocent.
Lo is a complex character. Prior to the trip her apartment is burglarized while she is in it and we get the first hint that all is not right. She uses some breathing methods that hint of therapy and learn throughout the novel that she has panic attacks and anxiety. Blacklock also is not afraid of a mini-bar, or popping a cork.
All of this is important because with the drinking and anxiety medication Lo is the perfect candidate for gaslighting. Lo believes she hears a body from the cabin next to hers (cabin 10) being thrown overboard, she looks over the verandah and believes she sees blood, and calls security.
This is a classic locked door mystery. If you enjoy Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I believe you will enjoy this novel. There are many twists that will keep you guessing. A woman is missing, but all staff and passengers are accounted for. Lo questions herself, but the fact is that she saw a woman in the cabin and now that woman is gone. Her own terrifying experience of being burgled, and the helplessness she felt then kindles a need to figure out the truth and help this other victim.
Blacklock has no real allies. The security officer makes a point out of her drinking, and that she shouldn't mix her meds with alcohol so the only person she can rely on is herself; and she's pretty shaky. I love the way Ware builds Lo Blacklock's character. Lo is very accessible, her flaws make her more sympathetic, but not pitiable. She is very strong, introspective and pretty kick ass. She refuses to allow the issue to be swept away. In one conversation with security officer Nilsson she says "So that's it then, you think, just because of a handful of pills, I'm a paranoid nutjob who can't tell fact from fiction? She goes on to say to Nilsson "NO! I told you, you do not get to do this. You do not get to call me obsequious names and then dismiss what I've told you. Yes, I haven't been sleeping. Yes I'd been drinking. ...It has nothing to do with what I saw."
I won't go much more into the plot because I don't want to spoil it. Needless to say I was riveted, even to the point where I almost...almost committed the cardinal sin of flipping to the end. I really wanted to know who done it! I will say that when you do get to the last quarter of the book, and the mystery unravels, our heroine is still in danger and has to get herself out of more than one calamity.
On another note I appreciated that Ruth Ware constructed this character with her "flaws". Anxiety and panic attacks affect many people. Ware addresses this honestly and hopefully destigmatizes it in a way by allowing our protagonist to be so strong and self-sufficient. I will definitely be reading her first novel "In a Dark, Dark Wood".