Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Locked Room Mysteries

I'm a big fan of murder mysteries as a genre.

My favorite set up for a murder mystery is the locked room.

In case you're not familiar, this is basically that the crime happens - generally it's a murder thought sometimes it's an abduction or a theft or something along those lines and it seems on the surface to be impossible.

The room is locked. There's seemingly no way for the perpetrator to get in or out, no sign of how the crime could have been committed and the criminal get away.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did this sort of a story several times in his Sherlock Holmes series. I'd say that Sherlock was my first detective, but really it was Encyclopedia Brown and then Nancy Drew. I wanted to be Nancy Drew for years, I swear. But I digress. Agatha Christie also has several stories with this (Poirot is my favorite of her characters, I never really got into Miss Marple) theme. I believe, however, that the earliest version of this trope would be by Edgar Allen Poe - Murder in the Rue Morgue.


Again, I digress.

But I love mysteries and there's something extra eerie about this sort of a mystery. You know, in most fiction, that there's going to be a sensible explanation for what happened. Still, there's always the thrill in the beginning that this should be impossible, that there couldn't have been anyone else in the room, so who stabbed the Earl?

These are almost the perfect intersection for my love of mystery and my love of the creepy, supernatural end of things.

There are not nearly enough of these being written, and written well, in my personal opinion.

I've stumbled across a sub-genre of it, recently, however.

Murders on cruise ships.

So, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a new novel and it was one of those, hey, you read The Girl on the Train, you might like this. And it sounded like I would so much so that I pre-ordered it in hard-copy.

And I did. I did enjoy it. So much.

Basic premise, Lo Blacklock is a writer for a travel magazine. She's sort of middle rung in her job at the beginning of the story, but looking to make her way up the ladder to be a feature writer. She gets the opportunity of a lifetime when the lead features writer is put on bed rest due to a complicated pregnancy.

So now Lo is sent, in her place, on a week long cruise on the brand new top of the line luxury cruise ship, Aurora Borealis. This is a make or break kind of moment for her career. So, in spite of the fact that she's still reeling from a home invasion (that we experience at the beginning of the book) and a fight with her long term boyfriend that she gets on the ship anyway.

She is nervous, on edge, and afraid for her safety even as she reminds herself that being on a cruise ship is possibly the safest she could be. After all, the ship is occupied by high profile men and women and there's no way for anyone to get to her on the ocean.

Then the eponymous woman in cabin 10 (next to Lo's cabin) vanishes. Lo is certain that she heard the woman being murdered, but when security shows her the cabin it's empty. Not as if the occupant is out somewhere else, but as if it was never occupied at all. Which is what everyone else on board insists to be the case.

Security and everyone else on board try to tell Lo that she imagined things, that the stress of her assault and the break in (the robber hit her, not her boyfriend, in case that was a thought you had) combined with the fact that she already suffers from depression (which she sees therapists for and takes medication to help with) made her unreliable. But Lo knows what she saw and what she heard. She knows there was a woman in that cabin and that she's no longer on board.

Which means that a murderer is.

And she's trapped with them.

While it's not a locked room, the book has the same feel. There should be no way for the crime to have happened. There's a highly controlled environment, with a limited number of people. There's the eerie paranoia of not knowing who (if anyone) can be trusted.

There's also a great deal of gas lighting attempted, and subverted by the fact that Lo will not put up with that bull.


  1. My library has this. I think I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It's not a very long book, but I thought it packed a lot of emotion into itself. lol

      I actually picked up an earlier book by this same author, sort of without realizing they were the same person. It was on the sale table at my local BAMM. I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it since I liked this one so much.

      Now I just need people to write me more murder on a cruise ship fiction. Someone needs to get on that.

  2. I used to love mysteries and read them all the time, but it's been quite awhile. Might have to look for this. Thanks!

    1. Mysteries are legitimately my favorite thing on earth.

      I watch/listen to a lot of true crime because those are also mysteries. :)

      Basically I seem to really enjoy murder. :D

      I like this one a lot, but it does go over Lo being physically assaulted in the first chapter, and then her terror in the aftermath pretty detailed. There's no rape, she gets hit in the midst of the robbery. And there's obviously more violence and emotional turmoil throughout the book.

      So if that's an issue for you, you may want to give this one a pass. I didn't find it over the top graphic, but YMMV. My tolerance for such things is rather high.

    2. Wow! My library has 8 copies, all checked out. And three more copies ordered. Your post is the first I'd ever heard of the book or author, but it/she must be pretty popular. Her previous book is available, maybe I'll read that one first and see how I like it.

      Thanks for the warning. :) I think it's probably fine but that can be an issue for me.


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