With a title like The Woman in Cabin 10, this novel already brought to mind all of the “girl” thrillers we’ve had lately — Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Luckiest Girl Alive, etc — which all have messy, unlikable woman as protagonists. So when The Woman in Cabin 10 begins with our main character waking up drunk and fuzzy-headed in the middle of the night, I may have let out an audible sigh. BUT I was pleasantly surprised with this one, which stars a flawed but likable woman desperate to solve a mystery that she brought upon herself simply by trying to do the right thing.
“My friend Erin says we all have demons inside us, voices that whisper we’re no good, that if we don’t make this promotion or ace that exam we’ll reveal to the world exactly what kind of worthless sacks of skin and sinew we really are. Maybe that’s true. Maybe mine just have louder voices.”
Laura “Lo” Blacklock has received the opportunity of a lifetime: reporting on the maiden voyage of a small luxury cruiseliner for her travel magazine. But when her apartment gets burgled (with her in it) a few nights before the ship sets off, leaving her with a head injury and trouble sleeping due to her anxiety, she spends the first few days in a fog. During this time, she meets a woman in the cabin next to her — a woman who disappears after Lo hears a splash in the middle of the night. And no one believes Lo that the woman even existed in the first place.
The fact that we don’t know for certain that this woman exists adds a wonderfully thrilling dimension to what would otherwise be your basic locked room mystery. After all, the killer must be on the boat — but does a killer exist at all? Ware does a great job of making the reader (or in my case, listener, and I highly recommend the audio version) feel the tension and unease that Lo’s undergoing by making constant references to the smallness of the ship and its cabins, the constant rocking of the sea, and Lo’s fatigue and general fuzziness. As more and more about Lo’s past gets revealed, we have to decide how much we can trust her view of the world. Overall, definitely a thriller in every sense of the word!