From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.
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, but as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the desk, 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.
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.
Ruth Ware worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and a press officer before settling down as a full-time writer. She now lives with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England. She is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail (Toronto) bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Visit her at RuthWare.com or follow her on Twitter @RuthWareWriter.
“Ware plunges the reader headlong into this action-packed, vivid tale, rendering one unable to come up for air until the very last page is turned.”
– Toronto Star
“A fantastic read. A fog-enshrouded cruise ship, a twisty puzzle of a murder mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie, and unrelenting suspense. Batten down the hatches and prepare to read it in one sitting!”
– Shari Lapeña, author of The Couple Next Door
“A dark and gripping thriller that will enchant readers.”
– Sarah Ward, author of In Bitter Chill
“A claustrophobic page-turner that’ll have you suspecting everyone. Agatha Christie for the WhatsApp generation.”
– Tamar Cohen, author of The Broken
“I devoured this in two tense sittings, reading late into the night, desperately turning the pages to find out what happened. A tense, twisty delight that powers along at a heart rattling pace.”
– Angela Clarke, author of Follow Me
“A deeply intriguing slow-burn mystery that has you wondering if anyone can be trusted. Ware draws you in deep and holds you tight until the very end. Fantastic.”
– S. J. I. Holliday, author of Black Wood and Willow Walk
“A troubled young woman, a trip of a lifetime and a titanic dose of intrigue. All the glamour of Agatha’s Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express but with added mystery. Ruth Ware’s writing is fast and addictive and will keep you guessing until the very end.”
– T. R. Richmond, author of What She Left
“The Woman in Cabin 10 is a deliciously compulsive read. At once up-to-the-minute and timeless, it blends classic suspense writing with twenty-first-century twists and turns. A book to keep you reading late into the night and leave your mind and pulse racing long after the final page.”
– Ann Morgan, author of Beside Myself
“I absolutely swallowed it whole. I think it’s even better than Ruth’s first; she takes that classic golden age premise of a locked room and turns it into something completely right for the 21st century.”
– Erin Kelly, author of The Ties That Bind
“For the last two days, I’ve ignored hubby and kids due to complete immersion in The Woman In Cabin 10. Awesome!”
– Emma Kavanagh, author of Falling and Hidden
“With a churning plot worthy of Agatha Christie . . . Ruth Ware twists the wire on readers’ nerves once again. ‘Cabin 10’ just may do to cruise vacations what ‘Jaws’ did to ocean swimming. You’ll be afraid to go out on the water.”
“An atmospheric thriller as twisty and tension-filled as her debut.”
– The Washington Post
“A suspenseful mystery that entangles friendship, identity and memory with a possible murder.”
“Taut and provocative.”
"This atmospheric thriller will have you gripped."
“A classic "paranoid woman" story with a modern twist in this tense, claustrophobic mystery...The cast of characters, their conversations, and the luxurious but confining setting all echo classic Agatha Christie; in fact, the structure of the mystery itself is an old one: a woman insists murder has occurred,everyone else says she's crazy. But Lo is no wallflower; she is a strong and determined modern heroine who refuses to doubt the evidence of her own instincts.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Ware’s follow-up to her best-selling debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, is a gripping maritime psychological thriller that will keep readers spellbound. The intense final chapters just might induce heart palpitations.”
– Library Journal, Starred Review
"Ruth Ware is back with her second hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-tingling tale."
– Marie Claire
"[The Woman in Cabin 10] generate[s] a dark, desperate tension that will appeal to Ware’s and Gillian Flynn’s many fans. This is the perfect summer read for those seeking a shadowy counter to the sunshine."
– Booklist, Starred Review
“A fantasy trip aboard a luxury liner turns nightmarish for a young journalist in The Woman in Cabin 10, the pulse-quickening new novel by Ruth Ware, author of In a Dark, Dark Wood.”
– O Magazine
"[A] snappy thriller set on the high seas… The first chapter will grab your attention, force it against a wall and hold it there until the end.”
– Associated Press
"If you're a fan of Agatha Christie, get ready to curl up with this suspenseful mystery."
"With a flawed but likeable heroine, and a fast moving plot, it makes for a stylish thriller."
– Sunday Mirror
"This beach read thriller has sun, suspense, and goes well with SPF."
"Ware does something more than write the next Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, even if she writes in that wheelhouse. Ware puts her own stamp on the genre... The Woman in Cabin 10 is good: it’s creepy, it’s frustrating, and it’s interesting. It brings elements of our current fixations into the realm of the thriller/mystery in the best possible way."
– Electric Literature
"With a churning plot worthy of Agatha Christie, and fresh on the heels of her bestselling thriller In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware twists the wire on readers’ nerves once again. “Cabin 10” just may do to cruise vacations what “Jaws” did to ocean swimming."
– Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Ware's propulsive prose keeps readers on the hook and refuses to let anyone off until all has been revealed."