Readers are always looking for a thriller as intriguing as Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. A new book that comes close to these with plot twists is The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. Lo Blacklock is employed by a travel magazine in England and has been feeling that she is going nowhere with her career. Her supervisor is pregnant and not feeling that she can tolerate a cruise, so this is Lo’s big break. The cruise will be the maiden voyage of a luxury yacht. There are only ten cabins on the boat and everything is extremely luxurious. The owner, who is a sort of Richard Branson figure, is on board, along with his wife who is recovering from chemotherapy. Lo is a woman who has panic attacks and a bit of a drinking problem. She hopes to excel with a feature article describing the cruise through Scandinavian waters. She is having an experience far beyond an ordinary person’s financial means. Her reputation follows her when she drinks a little too much on the first night and then insists that she thinks she saw a woman fall off the ship. She is also positive that she saw a young woman in Cabin 10, although staff and other passengers insist that no one like that was on the boat. The protagonist deals with her own personal demons as she must cope with very frightening situations. See how soon you can figure out what may have happened and why.
Philippa Gregory is an outstanding writer of historical fiction. Her most recent novel Three Sisters, Three Queens is the story of Henry VIII’s two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and his first wife, Katherine. Although at times they had real affection for each other, they were often in conflict for control and precedence. Margaret, the oldest Tudor sister, was at court when Katherine came to England to become Henry’s brother’s wife. Marriage was a political function, so Margaret was there to witness the loss of status Katherine faced when her first husband died and her later elevation when she became Henry’s wife. Even though Margaret had hoped to marry someone else, she was sent to Scotland to become King James’ wife. Her treatment by Gregory is what makes an absorbing novel. Although the major highlights of Margret’s life are well known, her motivations are open to interpretation. She was widowed when Scotland rebelled against Henry. Margret’s marriage was supposed to have been a peaceful link, but she basically had to spend her life trying to protect her son’s birthright. A good historical novel humanizes figures which help the reader better understand and remember the events the characters were a part of.
Julian Fellows was the author of the immensely popular PBS show Downton Abbey, so there is a primed audience ready for his book Belgravia. The title refers to an area of housing that was constructed in London in the mid 1800’s. The novel begins in June 1915 in Brussels on the eve of the battle of Waterloo. Two families attend the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on that fateful evening. The Trenchard family, which includes the beautiful, young Sophia, is headed by a man who has been Wellington’s chief supplier. He will eventually go on to become a major developer of Belgravia. Lord Edmund Bellasis is a young English aristocrat who will die on the battlefield the next day. The novel skips over twenty plus years to a time when these two classes of families have begun to cross social boundaries. Just like Downton Abbey, this novel portrays a segment of English history with a look at how different types of people lived their lives.