The Woman in Cabin 10

9781501132933_p0_v3_s192x300   Sometimes a scary novel is a welcome alternative to reality, and Ruth Ware has the right formula in The Woman in Cabin 10.  On the eve of the big political debate in the United States, with the two prospective Presidents ready to attack each other on live television, I found myself avoiding the front pages and the review sections of the New York Times, glancing at the arts section and opting instead to read Ware’s book – on the bestseller list now for weeks.   Starting slowly with a burglary and escalating quickly into a mystery thriller on an elite ocean liner, The Woman in Cabin 10 successfully delivered me from real political moments to a solvable mystery.

Although the narrator, journalist Lo Blacklock, fits the role of unreliable narrator with her alcoholic stupors, panic attacks, antidepressants, and general wide-eyed fawn caught in the headlights persona, the author’s description of the setting makes Blacklock’s accusations seem plausible.  You almost expect a dead body to come floating up from the depths of the ocean.

“When I got to the door that opened to the deck, a wall of gray greeted me behind the glass, blanketing the ship in its folds so you could barely see from one end of the deck to the other, giving a strange, muffled feeling.  The mist had brought a chill to the air, fogging the hairs on my arms with drizzle, and as I stood uncertainly in the lee of the doorway, shivering and trying to get my bearings, I heard the long, mournful boom of a fog horn.”

Blacklock is convinced a woman has been thrown overboard on her first night at sea, and suspects passengers, including her ex-boyfriend, as well as the crew.  Her story seems to be the traumatic aftereffect of the burglary in her apartment the night before she sailed; no one is missing on the ship, and clues that appear only to Blacklock could be dismissed as her imagination or hysteria.  Was there ever a woman in Cabin 10?

To add to the confusion, Ware inserts missives projecting forward to the end of the cruise, but in the middle of the action and as Blacklock continues with her narrative – news, after the cruise has docked, proclaiming the disappearance of Blacklock from the ship and the finding of a dead woman’s body washed ashore.  The reader knows Blacklock is still alive because her narrative continues and the next shock will give you Vertigo.  No spoilers here but let me know if you get my reference after you read the book.

In a combination of Agatha Christie and O’Henry, Ware manages to tie up all the loose threads at the end of the book and provide a surprise ending.  A great read – fast and furious, I read it in a sitting – thankfully, not before I went to bed.

As for the great debate tomorrow, now I know it can’t be as scary nor as satisfying as Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10.

Related Review:  In a Dark Dark Wood

 

Have You Checked the Children

9781250045379_p0_v3_s192x300    Using a phrase from a macabre mystery movie, Ann Leary lulls the reader into a suspenseful family drama in The Children.  The tale of the blended Whitman family follows a seemingly routine path, as Leary introduces the quirks of each character, but like all her stories, Leary always has hidden and surprising twists.

Charlotte Maynard, the reclusive narrator, writes a blog about life as a harried housewife with problem children; she does so well she has acquired sponsors who pay her to post everyday.  Charlotte is a fraud.  She is not married, has no children, and successfully  plays on the anonymity and possibilities of the internet and vulnerable users.

Although Charlotte’s mendaciousness sets the tone for all the other characters, Leary carefully keeps their facades in tact until almost the end of the book. All have secrets: Laurel, the too perfect girlfriend; Sally, the talented but disturbed sister; Spin, the likable step-brother and heir to the estate; Everett, boyfriend and dog whisperer.

The story revolves around familiar themes – old money, New England family, and greed.  After Whit Whitman dies, his second wife and her daughters live on in the lakefront estate; however, his sons own the estate, with a provision in the family trust that allows their step-mother to stay. When Spin, the youngest brings his fiancé home, cracks start to appear in the family relationships, with resentments and old wounds threatening to bring down the house with humor and intrigue.

If you enjoyed Leary’s The Good House (soon to be a film with Meryl Streep), you will like The Children – an easy and enjoyable read with some well-appreciated subliminal thoughts on real estate lust and computer hacking.

Related Review:   The Good House