Ruth Ware, a well established mystery author, created a captivating novel with The Woman in Cabin 10. I am not overly familiar with Ware’s writing style, as I have only read two (this one included) of her mysteries. The formula of this particular book reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel, as it followed the same “trapped with a group of people, one of whom is a murderer” formula as many of Christie’s own books. Lo Blacklock, a travel writer, is given the chance to report on a luxury cruise with a select few passengers, when she hears a splash in the night and is convinced someone was tossed overboard. The Woman in Cabin 10 focused on dramatic, suspenseful plot and flawed, believable characters to engage the reader. This was a quick read for me, and I would recommend it if you enjoy an engaging, suspenseful mystery.
That being said, there were important elements that I found irksome- primarily a large cast of characters and a lack of flow. In addition, it took me quite some time to become invested in the main character, Lo. I could not decide if she was an unlikeable character, or if she did not feel fully developed as a character. Either way, something felt off, and the character growth felt overshadowed by the fast paced plot. There is not much else I feel comfortable saying without spoiling the entire book, but I can say that I appreciated Lo’s insistence on solving the mystery, and her stubborn care for the stranger in cabin 10. While I found myself groaning at Lo’s impulsiveness at times, I appreciated her tenacity and strength.
The rest of the many characters, however, make the book difficult to follow. I had no hope in keeping track of their names, as well as their backgrounds and professions. Ultimately, I looked up a character list online, but then had to be careful about spoiling the book for myself. A list of characters in the back of the book would have been helpful for reference. In addition, a map may have been another useful tool, as The Woman in Cabin 10 takes place in the North Sea and relies on the ship’s travels for suspense.
Finally, my last complaint is that the cohesion of the story left something to be desired. There were events in the beginning of the book that could have connected to the main story, but never ended up being linked. This gave the book quite a choppy feel, and was frustrating for me as a reader. Furthermore, there were pieces of the resolution that the author left to the reader to infer, which made the ending feel incomplete. Based on the characters involved, this was an intentional choice by Mrs. Ware. I understand where she was coming from, but I prefer concrete endings.
These might seem like sharp criticisms, but book reviews are subjective to the reader’s personal tastes. It was also difficult for me not to compare it to the other mystery I have read by Ruth Ware - The Death of Mrs. Westaway, which I enjoyed a lot more. The flow of the story, character development and conclusion came together much more seamlessly. I respect Ms. Ware as a mystery writer, but The Woman in Cabin 10 felt disjointed at times. Despite my grievances, I quite enjoyed this book and read it quickly, as the mystery itself was great at holding my interest. The plot was intriguing, and I felt myself wishing I could read faster so I would know the outcome sooner! If you enjoy fast paced mysteries, you will enjoy this book. Just know that it may not be her best work, but it is worth a read.