The Woman in Cabin 10–Ruth Ware

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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.

 

Finished 12/16

In a Dark, Dark Wood–Ruth Ware

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Some plots are more equal than others and the plot to Ruth Ware’s debut novel is one.  Nora (Leonora) writes crime novels and lives alone in London.  She works from home and interacts with others primarily through email and text–and she prefers it.  She ventures outside several times a week to run, which she enjoys because of the sense of escape, of running away.  Ok, we got it.  She has issues, but what are they?

Ware begins with a familiar plot device–starting near the end.  Nora is in a hospital with wounds she cannot remember receiving.  Rather than wondering what happened to her, Nora’s first impulse is to wonder what she has done.  Curiosity piqued.

We get our first peek at Nora’s issues when Ware goes back to the near beginning.  Nora receives an email invitation to a hen party in Northumberland and wonders, why am I invited?  The hen is a woman she has not seen in ten years, since she was sixteen and left her hometown of Reading.  A quick email to a childhood friend who also lives in London, Nina, and a pact and, boom, they are both rsvp’ing to the hen party.

On the drive to the party, we find out that Nora fled Reading and her mother now lives in Australia with Nora’s stepfather, whom Nora does not seem to like much.  Nina is a tall, spiked-tongued, bronzed doctor with a Brazilian father.  Both Nora and Nina have mixed feelings about the hen, Clare, but are curious about the invite.  The party is in a modern glass-walled house in a deserted wood down a nearly unnavigable drive. The other guests include Clare’s university friends, Melanie, Tom (gay), and Flo (the maid of honor and hostess of the hen party).  Melanie is leaving her six-month-old for the first time.  Tom is a playwright.  Flo is too enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm continues to reveal itself suggesting mental instability supported by Melanie’s divulging that Flo had a breakdown at university and never finished.  Whatever her state, Flo is utterly devoted to Clare and pledged to give her the best hen party ever for the best hen ever.

Nora, claustrophobic almost on arriving, takes a run in the near-dark and encounters Clare as she comes back up the drive.  This gives Clare an opportunity to tell Nora that she is not invited to the wedding, at which Clare will wed Nora’s childhood sweetheart, James.  That is just the beginning of the weird.  There is no cell service at the house, which becomes creepier as dark falls and the inhabitants realize they are on view to whatever lurks in the woods. The guests take the edge off with tequila and begin to reveal bits of their stories and personalities.

Ware continues to move between the hospital, where Nora’s memory slowly returns, and the events of the hen party, which becomes creepier and creepier and includes a shotgun hung over the fireplace, a trip to the shooting range, and a night with a Ouija board.  Finally we learn that the party ended with the shooting of a midnight visitor.

I read the first half of the novel before bed and was seriously concerned that I would suffer nightmares as a consequence.  It was that good.  I finished in the morning, unable to put it down from waking until the last page.  As with other really good crime novels, I was uncertain whodunit until the end.  It was so good, I am considering re-reading it as an audible book to savor the drama enhanced by a good reader.

Finished 1/3/16