Psychological-thrillers have a special place in my book-loving heart. Though I don’t read them as often as I do a literary fiction or memoir, when I’m in a reading rut or suffering from a book hangover (or I’m paralyzed with too many “next-read” options), an engrossing, gaslighting, plot-twisty thriller has been known to jolt me out of such a state. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10—the first Ruth Ware novel I ever read—was the book of my rudderless summer and it’s a mystery I’m still attempting at piecing together even today.
Not only are psychological-thrillers perfect for combatting reading ruts but they also make great vacation reads. Yet there’s something about a suspense novel that takes place during a vacation that’s equally captivating and terrifying. Think about it: You’re in an unfamiliar place, far from home where procedures are different; perhaps not in the best state of mind due to traveling stress; maybe inhibitions are down as you’re in full-blown R&R mode, or maybe you’re taking a vacation after a traumatic encounter (say a break-in at your home). To make things ten times worse, you’re alone and, even if you’re with friends, a lover, or colleagues for instance, if something were to go wrong (like a passenger going missing aboard a luxury cruise), would you truly be able to trust them? In the midst of all of this . . . you witness a murder. This is the exact circumstance Lo Blacklock finds herself in THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10.
If you’re looking for a suspense-book definition of gaslighting, you’ll find it in pages of this novel. After Lo borrows mascara from the woman in the cabin next to her (the eponymous “Woman in Cabin 10”), she witnesses her demise as she’s tossed overboard by an unknown assailant. Lo goes to great lengths to get to the bottom of this murder mystery except . . . everyone on board is accounted for and, well, there is no woman in cabin 10. The room has been unoccupied this entire time. Lo begins to doubt her sanity. No one knows or has seen this woman and, after questioning everyone on board, she comes up with no answers.
As a reader, I began to doubt Lo’s sanity too. Could the break-in she fell victim to at her home before the trip have rattled her to this degree? To such an extent that she’s imagining invisible women and murder? Throughout the book, the mysterious assailant seems to be targeting Lo in isolation—leaving her threatening messages on steamy mirrors, breaking into her room perhaps to erase any trace of the woman (the pink and green mascara vial). All of which conveniently make Lo’s story seem like it’s all in her head. To make matters more stressful, sprinkled throughout the novel are news clips and articles of Lo’s disappearance! It’s not until Lo comes face-to-face with the woman in cabin 10 that the pieces of this mystery begin to come together and a new mystery unveils itself: where is Lo Blacklock?
To put it bluntly—the conclusion of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 is wild. From the who to the why to the how, you won’t see this end coming. A satisfying read from start to finish, I would recommend this book to anyone—if you’re in a reading rut or in need of a vacation read. Though I might advise readers on board a cruise ship to proceed with caution . . .