Ruth Ware’s ‘Woman in Cabin 10’ is All Dressed Up with No Place to Go

Woman in Cabin 10

Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 is the second thriller I’ve read from the author, and I came into it a little speculatively. The other novel of hers I dug into, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was pretty good but ended terribly, I thought.

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However, I had heard good things about this book and wanted to give it a try. The problem hadn’t been the book as a whole; it was the ending. Without spoiling too much, In a Dark, Dark Wood started well and descended down a meandering path, ending with a dull thud instead of a bang. I’d seen the newest novel everywhere, so I thought I’d give it a shot, thinking maybe it would correct course and elevate Ruth Ware’s standing among modern thriller writers.

Turns out, maybe that’s not the case. The Woman in Cabin 10 has a great set-up for a thriller, same as with In a Dark, Dark Wood. However, for some reason, Ware doesn’t follow through with what promised to be a tense, thoughtful novel.

In The Woman in Cabin 10, Lo manages to snag a ride on a luxury commercial cruise-liner in order to write an article for the travel magazine with which she works. (I would mention the exposition, but it appears to have almost no impact on the plot proper, so I’m going to step right past it.) Her situation shifts dramatically when she hears what she is convinced is the sound of a body being thrown overboard. The only thing is, no one will believe her because she’s a bit of a sot.

Good set-up, right? What I imagined was Patricia Highsmith on the high seas. What I got instead was like a thriller version of the GooseBumps series. The premise is solid, but the book meanders into a few dead ends before stopping cold to make the plot move along. It kills novel’s momentum and robs the narrator of the ability to deduce the plot on her own.

Writers like Gillian Flynn have really ramped up the difficulty for anyone getting in on mystery / thriller novels of the last few years. You’ve got to bring your A-Game to be able to compete, and I just don’t think this book does. It’s too thin, plot-wise, and just as it begins to develop a mystery, it sort of wraps itself up.

I almost didn’t write this reflection on The Woman in Cabin 10. I very generally keep to the advice given to every child in school: “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” and all that. However, I think there’s a lot of potential with this book and look forward to finding a Ruth Ware book that completely satisfies me. Until then, there’s always Patricia Highsmith.

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