Quite possibly the stupidest, most aggravating character in recent memory blunders her way through a mystery like an amateur Inspector Clouseau. It’s staggering how many poor decisions our hero Laura “Lo” Blacklock makes on a minute to minute basis. I had to keep checking that the author wasn’t actually a man writing under a woman’s pseudonym because this is one of the most misogynistic books I’ve read in some time.
“I groaned at my own stupidity…”
“Why didn’t I listen to…”
“How could I have been so stupid…”
Christ, lady, we get it. You’re an idiot. By the ending my patience was exhausted and I was skimming every other sentence just to finish the damn thing. At one point I physically put the book down and had to shake my head I was so annoyed with the newest act of dipshittery from our plucky protagonist.
Ruth Ware’s novel concerns Lo and several other journalists and VIPs that are invited on board the maiden voyage of the cleverly named luxury yacht, Aurora, for a visit to the North Sea and a viewing of the aurora borealis. Lo has recently been burgled and is suffering from PTSD but goes on the trip anyway because she is trying to climb the ladder at her travel magazine. One night after dinner she is awoken by a scream coming from the cabin next door (#10) followed by a splash. Lo immediately goes to her balcony and sees what she believes is a hand disappearing beneath the waves. Or did she? Unfortunately Lo got shatter drunk the night before and has spent most of the last few days in some form of soused so its impossible to know if she saw what she thinks she did. Because no one else heard anything, and there is no record that anyone was in cabin 10.
Yes, it’s yet another in the seemingly endless line of “Unreliable narrator mystery, told in the first person for maximum confusion.” The first half of the novel is entertaining and plays like an Agatha Christie closed room mystery. The latter piles up coincidences and red herrings that serve no purpose other than confounding the plot further and annoying the reader. At least it annoyed me. It also doesn’t help that there are 20-30 possible suspects from the cabin stewards to the wealthy financiers to the ship’s crew and I had a hell of a time telling who was who from scene to scene. Characterization is poor and illogical at times. One character is given a large chunk of dialogue and exposition at the start of the voyage and then all but disappears from the narrative other than a far too coincidental act late in the story.
Lo spends the entirety of the novel freaking out, suspecting everyone, questioning everyone, and making herself as big of a target as possible by making sure that every single person on board knows that she thinks someone was killed. She gives zero consideration or thought to working through who logically would have means, access, and motive to pull off a murder and blunders from one interrogation to another with all the subtlety of Ace Ventura on a laughing gas binge.
This is not a good book. The resolution to the mystery is too far fetched and final act twist goes on for far too long. If you liked Ware’s previous novel In a Dark, Dark Wood this is more of the same. That book was decent but this follow up is all wet. (zing!)
See, I can be clever, too.