Right. I have been attempting to write a coherent yet snappy review of this book for a few days now. I have utterly failed. I am sorry.
So here are the salient points:
The Woman in Cabin 10 will appeal to those readers who enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but it is not the same book. While those books depended on the slow revelation that the narrator was not all she or he seemed to be, The Woman in Cabin 10 makes it quite clear that Lo's perception of reality is skewed by various factors. Thus, the tension in the story comes, not from figuring out that Lo is an unreliable narrator, but from figuring out when she is lying (either to herself or to the reader) and when she is telling the truth. It's a delicate teasing of reality from fever dream.
Fans of locked-room murder mysteries will enjoy this quite a lot (I am one such fan, ergo, I enjoyed it). Instead of a sprawling British estate or fusty hotel room, we have a tasteless if expensively furnished yacht headed to Trondheim. Lo (Laura) Blacklock works for a smallish travel magazine and snagged the gig because her boss is pregnant and not up to traveling by boat. She and select members media have been invited aboard the maiden voyage of the Aurora, owned by young Lord Bullmer. It's hard to be mad at Richard Bullmer for being rich, famous, and handsome, though: his young, pretty wife is dying of cancer. She, too, is aboard the vessel, but wan and tired from her latest bout of chemotherapy.
Rounding out the requisite cast of idiosyncratic characters are a handsome photographer, a buffoonish Australian naturalist, and a catty (or is she?) older travel writer. And then there's the woman in the cabin next to Lo. When she realizes she forgot her mascara (seriously, if you wear makeup but forget your mascara, it is most definitely A Big Problem), Lo decides to ask a favor from her next door neighbor. The occupant of the cabin is young and pretty, but her rock band t-shirt and attitude don't really fit the vibe of the rest of the party. Lo doesn't see her at dinner, but is awakened in the middle of the night by a thud. Running to her balcony, she sees a woman pushed overboard from cabin 10, and blood smeared on the veranda. But when she returns with the ship's security officer (who I swear was based on Stellan Skarsgård -at least, that's how I cast him in my mind's eye), there's nothing. No blood, no trace of an occupant, and no one on the register for cabin 10.
What follows is an excellent study in gaslighting. As readers, we know that Lo is being manipulated, but we also know that she doesn't know. Or are we being manipulated along with her? My brain!
I only have one complaint as to an unresolved plot point, but it's spoilery, so scroll down with me.
The person who was supposed to occupy cabin 10 stayed home because of a violent home invasion. At the beginning of the novel, Lo's flat is burgled and she is threatened by a masked figure who locks her into her room with no form of communication. We are supposed to draw a parallel between the missing expert and Lo, but since the murderer only needed cabin 10 to be empty, why would he also send an attacker to the person in cabin 9? We never find out who attacked Lo in her flat. Was it truly an isolated attack?
All things considered, this is an excellent thriller. I need to go back and read Ware's debut novel, and hopefully she'll have another novel out relatively soon. But not James Patterson soon.