Author: Ruth Ware
I love a good “locked room” mystery, but I had some problems staying engaged in this story, at least in the beginning.
I borrowed this book from my local library. It’s part of their Express Collection, which means you only get to keep the book for a week. If you are late, it’s a dollar-a-day fine, which can really rack up if you’re not paying attention.
I can usually plow through a good book in a few hours ( if I have the time), if not, then in a couple of days. Unfortunately, this book was slow out of the gate for me, which kept me struggling to finish it within the week deadline.
I’m not sure how many pages in I was when I flipped to the back of the book and started skimming. This is never a good sign for me. I convinced myself to go back and read in chronological order. The second time it happened I was on page 68. I kept putting the book down, aggravated and a little bored with it. Come on, I told myself you only have a week. So Sunday night with the book due on Monday, I forced myself to read it. And the second half was really good.
Let’s discuss…spoilers ahead.
The book is written in first person POV which means the entire story is told through Laura (nickname Lo) Blacklock’s eyes. She is a reporter for a travel magazine and is handed a cushy assignment on a small yet exclusive luxury ship.
However, the book starts with Lo asleep in her bed, in her apartment, waking up out of a drunken stupor. She hears noise in the next room and thinks it’s her boyfriend back early, he travels, but when she looks into her living room it’s a burglar complete with a scarf covering his face. He moves towards her and slams her bedroom door in her face which strikes her cheek. She’s traumatized, battered and afraid. When she finally tries to leave her bedroom, the door is blocked or something.( I forgot how she manages to get out.) Her handbag was in the living room, so her cell phone and credit cards are gone. She ends up at her neighbors asking to use the phone.
Reading as a writer…its the author’s job to make us care about the main character. If she can make us worry for her safety even better. But the author was intent on making Lo an unreliable narrator, which seems to be the “characterization du jour”. The Girl On the Train, and Gone Girl have the same type of protagonist. Lo questions herself. Was I so drunk I left the door open? The locksmith tells her she should have changed out her locks and reinforced them a long time ago. The building’s old and the neighborhood is ok but you know…sliding. She parties a little too hard frequently. She is prone to panic attacks. The police confirm for her that her apartment could be burgled again.
Anxiety ridden, she sleeps at her boyfriend’s place while he is away. He comes home unexpectedly during the night. She struggles during her sleep, he tries to calm her, she wakes up disoriented, grabs a nearby lamp and hits her boyfriend with it, thinking he’s the burglar returned. She knocks his tooth out. They have a fight. He loves her, wants to get serious. She is unsure of everything.
Feeling alone and unsure where she stands with her boyfriend, she leaves for her assignment- intoxicated. Yep, boards the boat after drinking a little too much on an empty stomach. She’s supposed to be a professional, this is a big break for her, she talks about how she wishes she could avoid dinner, but knows she’s supposed to be networking. By this time, I’m completely aggravated with her.
Finally, she meets the woman in cabin 10, the one right next to Lo’s, which the host will claim is empty. The meeting is very quick, a conversation held with Lo in the hall and the woman in her cabin.
Now we have to meet everyone on the ship. More pages, more pages. There are several travel writers, one of which is her ex-boyfriend, Ben. He’s a bit obnoxious, hitting on her but then acting like a friend too. But you know, she’s kind of unstable and drunk. We also have to meet all the rich folks on this boat so it seemed like the book dragged on and on.
She continues to drink at dinner, of course, and later on when she returns to her cabin she hears a splash outside her balcony and swears it was a body. She glances at the balcony next to hers and sees what she assumes is a blood stain on the glass panel that acts as the balcony railing.
The next morning she races to report the murder. The security officer comes to her cabin. They discuss the situation, they inspect cabin 10 but it is completely empty and the railing is clean. Lo swears there was a woman in the cabin. The security guy is skeptical. Everyone knows she was pretty tipsy the night before. Lo of course is incensed by this treatment.
And things go on like this, with everyone doubting Lo, even Ben who’s suppose to be her friend kind of, even though she had to knee him in the balls, if I remember correctly.
But eventually, the story does pick up. And when it does, it really starts humming along. This big setup was necessary for the suspense that follows, I just wish it could have been executed a little more… precisely.
I won’t spoil the second half of the book for you. I recommend you stick with it. The payoff is worth it.
I may not have loved the main character, but the writing itself was excellent.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.