I’ve been on a bit of a thriller kick recently, so–like many other Cannonballers–I’ve read In a Dark Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. They relied very heavily on the ‘unreliable female narrator’ trope, bringing up inevitable comparisons to The Girl on the Train. They’re not as good as Girl on the Train. (I haven’t read Gone Girl, while I have seen the film, so I can’t compare there.) I’m way behind on my reviewing, but I figured I’d start with these ones.
In a Dark Dark Wood: Leonora is invited to a hen party for her old school friend, Claire, whom she hasn’t spoken to in years. She is reluctant to go, but is convinced by a mutual friend and fellow attendee, Nina. Even though Claire is supposed to be really popular, somehow not many of her friends want to go to the party, which is in a cabin in the woods of northern England without wifi or mobile signal. Nora (yes, Nora and Nina, ugh, though half the time people call Nora ‘Lee’ which was her childhood nickname) regrets her attendance even more when Claire reveals that her fiance is Nora’s old boyfriend, James. Things get creepy in the dark forest, tensions are high, and then someone dies–and Nora is a potential suspect.
The Woman in Cabin 10: Laura ‘Lo’ Blacklock is a journalist invited on a fancy cruise of the Norwegian fjords with other journalists and investors. Problem is, her apartment has just been broken into days before and she is still suffering from PTSD. While she is there, she knocks on the door of Cabin 10 and borrows mascara from the woman there (gross). Yet she doesn’t see this woman at dinner, and then that night, Lo hears a splash coming from next door–she sees blood and thinks there has been a murder. No one believes her, because the cabin was empty because a (male) guest had to cancel last minute, but Lo insists on trying to figure out what happened.
I definitely preferred In a Dark Dark Wood (the one I read first) to The Woman in Cabin 10, but I read both of them in one evening/night (each, not both in an evening). I stayed up quite late actually to read the first of the two (past midnight–that’s super late for me!) They were engaging enough to make me want to know what happened and were certainly entertaining, though many of the things that annoyed previous reviewers also annoyed me: plot holes, ridiculous amounts of alcohol, etc. (I’ve read other reviews after reading and definitely enjoyed the complaints.) There seemed to be more inconsistencies and plot holes in Cabin 10 than in Dark Wood. I’d probably give Cabin 2.5 or 3 stars and Dark Wood 3 or 3.5, but either way they’ll average out to around 3 stars. Not great fiction, but certainly entertaining enough.
Much of my preferences might have had to do with the protagonists of the stories. Nora’s defining character traits seemed to be ‘likes running’ and ‘is still messed up over breaking up with a high school boyfriend.’ (Ware tries to explain why said breakup is so traumatizing towards the middle/end, after hinting at it throughout, but I remain unconvinced.) Still, she seems like a nice person, and the relationship between her and Claire is interesting. ‘Lo’, on the other hand.. (Side note: what is with all these nicknames? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who insists on being called a nickname, though I guess if my name were Leonora I’d want to be called Nora too). I realize that Lo’s supposed to be suffering from PTSD, but she makes really dumb decisions (drinking a shitload to self-medicate is one of them) and is not someone I ever really rooted for. Maybe because she insists on everyone calling her by a stupid nickname. (Sorry to any ‘Lo’s out there).