Published by Harvill Secker
Ebook and Hardback: 30 June 2016 | Paperback: 26 January 2017
This was meant to be the perfect trip.
The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.
A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.
Except things don’t go as planned.
Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.
Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a terrible mistake. Or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness…
It’s a good thing that I’m a hardened cruise fan otherwise the premise of this book could have put me off cruise ships for life! We first meet Laura Blacklock, who insists on being called ‘Lo’ (oh how this grated!) when she is not having the best of times. She discovers an intruder in her flat and then has a row with her boyfriend. The only good thing is that she has been given an assignment for the magazine she works for to cover the maiden voyage of an luxury boutique cruise ship – the ‘Aurora Borealis’. She sees this as the chance to prove herself and hopefully get a promotion.
This cruise ship is not one of the enormous floating hotels that we are used to seeing but a much smaller, more intimate vessel and the cruise is being launched by a wealthy businessman and his wife. With so few passengers it doesn’t take Lo long to meet her fellow cruise companions who are a mixed bunch comprising of wealthy businessmen, their wives and other journalists.
Lo makes a mistake in drinking too much alcohol and combined with her medication, this gives her a reputation for being emotional and unstable. It’s not surprising that when she reports hearing a splash and seeing blood on the balcony of the next door cabin, she isn’t taken seriously. She insists that there was a young girl in the cabin but the cabin is now empty and the owner and crew are denying that there was ever anyone there. Lo clearly has a fragile disposition anyway – is she losing the plot completely?
The very nature of being at sea in an enclosed environment, with no internet or telephone connection (at least for Lo) gives the story an unsettling and claustrophic feel which the author does very well. If there has indeed been a murder, then it must surely have been committed by one of Lo’s cruising companions as its not easy to get on and off a ship when its sailing. I must be honest and say that I did find the story more of an entertaining read than the wholly thrilling and suspenseful one that I was expecting. At times you have to suspend belief a little and just go with the flow. There was one event which I felt sure must be connected to the cruise as so much was made of it and I spent most of the book waiting for it to be explained but then concluded it was just a random strand. I have to admit I had a problem with Lo (besides the name!) – I can usually get behind unlikeable or unreliable characters as they are far more interesting but for me Lo was a dealbreaker. I found her irritating in the extreme and to an extent this did affect my enjoyment of the book. There were times when I wished that she had gone over the side!
I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut In a Dark Dark Wood (reviewed here) but sad to say I didn’t love this as much. There is a good story underneath which I think could have made far more sinister if the main character had been more believable. Lo seemed to go into hysterics and have a meltdown at every opportunity and although later on in the story, she did seem to get her act together, by then it was too late for me. Neither was I convinced by the ending which seemed just too contrived and convenient.
I do enjoy this author’s writing and shall read more in future but I suggest that if you want a more suspenseful read about a disappearance on a cruise ship that you read Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (reviewed here).
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the digital copy for review.
About the author:
Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer, and now lives in North London with her family.
Her début thriller, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and has been optioned for film by New Line Cinema.
The follow up, The Woman in Cabin Ten, was published 30th June, and she is currently working on her third psychological thriller, The Lying Game.