I loved In a Dark, Dark Wood, so was super excited when I saw Ruth Ware’s new novel on my book review site–and very disappointed that it was only available to reviewers in the UK. When it was published in the US, I bought a copy, but have only just had the proper time to devote to it. This could not be, I knew, a casual read over many days. Ruth Ware grabs you by the throat and does not let go until the last page.
The novel begins with Lo, a travel journalist, experiencing the break-in of her apartment while locked in her bedroom. She is violated and terrified. She cannot sleep and in desperation goes to the home of her out-of-town boyfriend, with whom she has a “did we break up?” kind of fight before leaving on a fantastic opportunity for her career and a wonderfully posh boutique cruise with other journalists and investors. Thanks to sleep deprivation and a generous amount of alcohol, Lo sees the ship in the first day through a distorting distancing haze. When she finally sleeps, or passes out, she awakens to a scream followed by a large splash. When she runs to her balcony, she sees a woman disappearing beneath the waves and blood on the glass that divides her balcony from that of the neighboring room. She calls the staff and is told there is no one in the cabin next to her, even though she had borrowed mascara from a woman in that room the first evening. Things begin to go downhill from there as she sticks to her conviction that she heard and saw a murder and those around her question her reliability. As events move forward, everyone on the ship becomes a suspect, even former friends, and Lo’s paranoia climbs to new heights.
As is usually the case with novels that are so successful in building suspense, the conclusion seems destined to disappoint. Ware does a satisfactory job with the narrative, but takes a disappointing tactic in a predictable post script that made me close the cover with a pang.
Regardless, I enjoyed this novel for its ability to scare the bejeezus out of me and pull me into Lo’s paranoia. Ware is so adept that she brings readers into the mind-messing world of the page. The ship, of course, was a perfect setting on which to trap her protagonist, just as the isolated house in the woods was a perfect place to trap the protagonist of her debut novel. I am curious to see what hand Ware plays in her next novel.
A quick note on aesthetics. The dust jacket of the hard cover edition is gorgeous. The title is contained within a porthole streaming with rivulets of water. The beads of water are raised and glossy, so shimmer like actual water. My daughter marveled at the design, in fact, when it caught her eye in our kitchen. Kudos to the designers.