“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10I’ve never wanted to take a cruise on one of those giant ocean liners—the odds of coming down with norovirus or another horrible infection seem entirely too high. But a fancy river cruise or a voyage on a luxury yacht? Yes please.

The Woman in Cabin 10, which could do for luxury cruising what “Psycho” did for showers, may have changed my mind. This is a stay-up-late, edge-of-your seat thriller about a young travel writer who sets off to cover the maiden voyage of a posh vessel and winds up overhearing a woman in the neighboring cabin being killed and thrown overboard. No one else on the ship will acknowledge that the alleged victim ever existed, or even that she was onboard at all. Since the protagonist, Lo, is another one of those popular modern constructions, the Unreliable Lady Narrator, not even the reader knows what to think. After all, Lo takes medication for her anxiety, she drinks too much, and she’s trying to get over a traumatic event (a home-invasion burglary right before she set sail) that has caused her to suffer epic bouts of insomnia.

In the grand tradition of village mysteries, Cabin 10 features a small cast of suspects (including Lo’s ex-boyfriend). Even the most luxurious of settings, like the ship’s high-end spa, take on a sinister cast.

If things get a little implausible toward the end, I didn’t mind; I was too busy turning the pages. After my dad mentioned that a lot of the reviewers on a popular online retailer’s website had posted negative opinions of Cabin 10, I figured I should take a look. Predictably, a lot of people are criticizing Lo as being too troubled, too drunk, not a nice person. Personally, I’m not bothered by any of that; I always suspect that many readers of both genders are harder on female protagonists (I almost used the word “antihero,” but I don’t think that really describes Lo). She’s an interesting person caught up in a terrible situation, and she turns out to be incredibly strong. And the plot surprised me at every turn. If you can handle a flawed narrator, and if you have a few hours of uninterrupted reading time (this would be an excellent airplane book), I highly recommend The Woman in Cabin 10.

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