FROM THE AUTHOR OF IN A DARK, DARK WOOD
Featured in TheSkimm
An Entertainment Weekly “Summer Must List” Pick
A New York Post “Summer Must-Read” Pick
Included in Summer Book Guides from Bustle, Oprah.com, PureWow, and USA TODAY
An instant New York Times bestseller, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a gripping psychological thriller set at sea from an essential mystery writer in the tradition of Agatha Christie.
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong...
With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.
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Read an Excerpt
The Woman in Cabin 10
- CHAPTER 1 -
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face. I must have forgotten to shut the kitchen door last night. Punishment for coming home drunk.
“Go away,” I groaned. Delilah mewed and butted me with her head. I tried to bury my face in the pillow but she continued rubbing herself against my ear, and eventually I rolled over and heartlessly pushed her off the bed.
She thumped to the floor with an indignant little meep and I pulled the duvet over my head, but even through the covers I could hear her scratching at the bottom of the door, rattling it in its frame.
The door was closed.
I sat up, my heart suddenly thumping, and Delilah leaped onto my bed with a glad little chirrup, but I snatched her to my chest, stilling her movements, listening.
I might well have forgotten to shut the kitchen door, or I could even have knocked it to without closing it properly. But my bedroom door opened outward—a quirk of the weird layout of my flat. There was no way Delilah could have shut herself inside. Someone must have closed it.
I sat, frozen, holding Delilah’s warm, panting body against my chest and trying to listen.
And then, with a gush of relief, it occurred to me—she’d probably been hiding under my bed and I’d shut her inside with me when I came home. I didn’t remember closing my bedroom door, but I might have swung it absently shut behind me when I came in. To be honest, everything from the tube station onwards was a bit of a blur. The headache had started to set in on the journey home, and now that my panic was wearing off, I could feel it starting up again in the base of my skull. I really needed to stop drinking midweek. It had been okay in my twenties, but I just couldn’t shake off the hangovers like I used to.
Delilah began squirming uneasily in my arms, digging her claws into my forearm, and I let her go while I reached for my dressing gown and belted it around myself. Then I scooped her up, ready to sling her out into the kitchen.
But when I opened the bedroom door, there was a man standing there.
There’s no point in wondering what he looked like, because, believe me, I went over it about twenty-five times with the police. “Not even a bit of skin around his wrists?” they kept saying. No, no, and no. He had a hoodie on, and a bandanna around his nose and mouth, and everything else was in shadow. Except for his hands.
On these he was wearing latex gloves. It was that detail that scared the shit out of me. Those gloves said, “I know what I’m doing.” They said, “I’ve come prepared.” They said, “I might be after more than your money.”
We stood there for a long second, facing each other, his shining eyes locked on to mine.
About a thousand thoughts raced through my mind: Where the hell is my phone? Why did I drink so much last night? I would have heard him come in if I’d been sober. Oh Christ, I wish Judah was here.
And most of all—those gloves. Oh my God, those gloves. They were so professional. So clinical.
I didn’t speak. I didn’t move. I just stood there, my ratty dressing gown gaping, and I shook. Delilah wriggled out of my unresisting hands and shot away up the hallway to the kitchen, and I just stood there, shaking.
Please, I thought. Please don’t hurt me.
Oh God, where was my phone?
Then I saw something in the man’s hands. My handbag—my new Burberry handbag, although that detail seemed monumentally unimportant. There was only one thing that mattered about that bag. My mobile was inside.
His eyes crinkled in a way that made me think he might be smiling beneath the bandanna, and I felt the blood drain from my head and my fingers, pooling in the core of my body, ready to fight or flee, whichever it had to be.
He took a step forwards.
“No . . .” I said. I wanted it to sound like a command, but it came out like a plea—my voice small and squeaky and quavering pathetically with fear. “N—”
But I didn’t even get to finish. He slammed the bedroom door in my face, hitting my cheek.
For a long moment I stood, frozen, holding my hand to my face, speechless with the shock and pain. My fingers felt ice-cold, but there was something warm and wet on my face, and it took a moment for me to realize it was blood, that the molding on the door had cut my cheek.
I wanted to run back to bed, to shove my head under the pillows and cry and cry. But a small, ugly voice in my skull kept saying, He’s still out there. What if he comes back? What if he comes back for you?
There was a sound from out in the hall, something falling, and I felt a rush of fear that should have galvanized me but instead paralyzed me. Don’t come back. Don’t come back. I realized I was holding my breath, and I made myself exhale, long and shuddering, and then slowly, slowly, I forced my hand out towards the door.
There was another crash in the hallway outside, breaking glass, and with a rush I grabbed the knob and braced myself, my bare toes dug into the old, gappy floorboards, ready to hold the door closed as long as I could. I crouched there, against the door, hunched over with my knees to my chest, and I tried to muffle my sobs with my dressing gown while I listened to him ransacking the flat and hoped to God that Delilah had run out into the garden, out of harm’s way.
At last, after a long time, I heard the front door open and shut, and I sat there, crying into my knees and unable to believe he’d really gone. That he wasn’t coming back to hurt me. My hands felt numb and painfully stiff, but I didn’t dare let go of the handle.
I saw again those strong hands in the pale latex gloves.
I don’t know what would have happened next. Maybe I would have stayed there all night, unable to move. But then I heard Delilah outside, mewing and scratching at the other side of the door.
“Delilah,” I said hoarsely. My voice was trembling so much I hardly sounded like myself. “Oh, Delilah.”
Through the door I heard her purr, the familiar, deep, chainsaw rasp, and it was like a spell had been broken.
I let my cramped fingers loosen from the doorknob, flexing them painfully, and then stood up, trying to steady my trembling legs, and turned the door handle.
It turned. In fact it turned too easily, twisting without resistance under my hand, without moving the latch an inch. He’d removed the spindle from the other side.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I was trapped.
Reading Group Guide
This readering group guide for The Woman in Cabin 10 includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
From the New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood comes another riveting thriller filled with twists and turns.
Travel journalist Lo Blacklock has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: to travel the North Sea on the inaugural voyage of the Aurora, a luxury cruise ship. Between the plush cabins, elegant guests, and sparkling dinner parties, Lo’s trip is nothing short of amazing. But as the week progresses, Lo hears what can only be described as a nightmare: a woman in the cabin next to her being thrown overboard. The problem? None of the passengers on deck are missing, so the ship continues sailing as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s increasingly desperate attempts to raise the alarm.
Filled with surprising twists and turns, The Woman in Cabin 10 proves once again that Ruth Ware is a writer at the top of her game.
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. What’s the effect of having Lo’s e-mails and various news reports interspersed throughout Lo’s narration? In what ways do they help you better understand what’s happening aboard the Aurora?
2. When Lo first enters the ship, she says, “I had a sudden disorienting image of the Aurora as a ship imprisoned in a bottle—tiny, perfect, isolated, and unreal” (p. 37). In what ways does this statement foreshadow the events that take place on the ship? Describe the Aurora. In what ways do you think life on the ship may seem unreal? Discuss the book’s title. Why do you think Ware chose it? Did the title influence your reading of the novel? If so, how?
3. Who is Carrie? Did you like her? Why or why not? Describe her relationship with Lo. In what ways, if any, are the two women alike? How do Lo’s feelings about Carrie change as Lo gets to know her? Did your opinion of Carrie change as you read?
4. Lo questions Alexander about eating fugu during dinner aboard the Aurora, and he tells her that the fact it is poisonous is “what makes the experience” (p. 74). What does Alexander mean by his statement? Lo seems dubious about the appeal of it. Does Lo strike you as someone who takes risks? Were you surprised by any of her risky actions aboard the Aurora? Which ones, if any?
5. After Lo’s flat is burglarized, she calls Velocity’s assistant features editor, Jenn, and tells her about it. Lo says, “I told her what happened, making it sound funnier and more farcical than it really had been” (p. 13). Why do you think Lo underplays the break-in? How might this make her feel more in control? Have you ever underplayed an event of significance in your life?
6. When Lo panics on one of her first nights aboard the Aurora, she says, “I imagined burying my face in Judah’s shoulder and for a second I nearly burst into tears, but I clenched my teeth and swallowed them back down. Judah was not the answer to all this” (p. 49). Why is Lo so resistant to accepting help from Judah? Do you think that she’s right to be reticent? Describe their relationship. Do Lo and Judah support each other?
7. When Nilsson challenges Lo’s claim that she’s seen something happen in the cabin next to hers, she tells him, “Yes, someone broke into my flat. It has nothing to do with what I saw” (p. 141). Did you believe her? Did you think that the break-in made Lo more jumpy and distrustful? Give some examples to support your opinion.
8. When Lo first speaks to Richard Bullmer, she notices that he gives her “a little wink” (p. 79). What is the effect of this gesture? What were your initial impressions of Bullmer? Did you like him, or were you suspicious of him? After a prolonged conversation with Bullmer, Lo says, “I could see why [he] had got to where he had in life” (p. 194). Describe his manner. What does Lo think accounts for his success?
9. Archer tells Lo that self-defense is “not about size, even a girl like you can overpower a man if you get the leverage right” (p. 73). Is Lo able to do so? What kind of leverage does she have? What different kinds of power and leverage do the people on the Aurora use when dealing with each other? How did you react?
10. Judah tells Lo that “I still think, in spite of it all, we’re responsible for our own actions” (p. 334). Do you agree? In what scenes did you think the deception and violence that occurred were justified? In what scenes did you think it not justified?
11. When Lo sees the staff quarters on the Aurora, she says, “the rooms were no worse than plenty of cross-channel ferries I’d traveled on. . . . But it was the graphic illustration of the gap between the haves and have-nots that was upsetting” (p. 113). Contrast the guest quarters to those of the crew. Why does Lo find the discrepancy so unsettling? Much of the crew seemed unwilling to speak to Lo. Do you think this was caused by the “gap between the haves and have-nots”? Or some other reason?
12. Lo tells Judah, “You don’t know what goes on in other people’s relationships” (p. 333). Describe the relationships in The Woman in Cabin 10. Did you find any particularly surprising? Which ones, and why?
13. Bullmer tells Lo, “Why wait? . . . One thing I’ve learned in business—now almost always is the right time” (p. 190). Do you agree with his philosophy? In what ways has this attitude led to Bullmer’s success? Does this attitude present any problems aboard the Aurora? Do you think Lo shares the same life philosophy as Bullmer? How would you describe Lo’s philosophy on life?
14. Describe Lo’s relationship with Ben. She tells him “[e]verything I hadn’t told Jude. What it had been like . . . that I was vulnerable in a way I’d never thought I was before that night” (p. 82). Why does Lo share all this information with Ben rather than Jude? Did you think that Ben had Lo’s best interests at heart? Why or why not? Were you surprised to learn of their history?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Ware’s debut novel, In A Dark, Dark Wood, received rave reviews when it was first published and was named a best book of the year by NPR and Shelf Awareness. Read In a Dark, Dark Wood with your book club, then compare and contrast the two books. In what ways are they similar? How has Ware’s writing style evolved since she published her debut novel?
2. Richard Bullmer tells his guests, “The aurora borealis is something that everyone should see before they die” (p. 64). Look at pictures of the northern lights with your book club. Do you find them as breathtaking as Richard Bullmer does? Would you travel to see the northern lights as the guests of the Aurora plan on doing?
3. Lo says, “Pooh has always been my comfort read, my go-to book in times of stress” (p. 277). Why might Pooh bring Lo comfort? Do you have any “comfort reads”? Share them with your book club, and describe what you find so comforting about the books.
4. To learn more about Ruth Ware, read more about her other writings, and connect with her online, visit her official website at www.ruthware.com.