This is one of those books that's gotten lots of hype, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about. The book is okay but doesn't live up to expectations (for me).
The story: Laura (Lo) Blacklock, a travel journalist for 'Velocity' magazine, is thrilled when she gets to substitute for her pregnant boss on the 'Aurora', a 10-cabin luxury liner traveling from England to Scandinavia. The Aurora's passengers include a few wealthy tourists and investors, a professional photographer, and a cadre of reporters - meant to write (laudatory) stories about the ship and voyage.
Unfortunately - just days before the trip - Lo is deeply traumatized by a break-in and burglary at her apartment. Thus Lo arrives on the Aurora distracted, exhausted, and sleep-deprived. Still, Lo is determined to network at dinner - so she chooses one of her three rented evening gowns and starts to put on her make-up. Realizing she has no mascara Lo steps over to the next room - Cabin 10 - and borrows a tube of Maybelline from the pretty girl inside.
Fast forward to the middle of the night and Lo is woken from a deep sleep by a scream and a splash. Looking out Lo observes something pale - a body? - slipping into the ocean and sees a streak of blood on Cabin 10's veranda. Frightened and troubled, Lo reports the incident. Head of security Nilsson comes to investigate but Cabin 10 is completely empty (there aren't even sheets on the bed) and there's no blood stain. In addition, the room is not assigned to any passenger. The journalist INSISTS there was a woman in Cabin 10 so Nilsson arranges for Lo to meet all the female crew members - but none of them is the right girl....and no one is missing.
Lo is not about to sit back and do nothing so she proceeds to launch her own inquiry. Lo talks to passengers and staff and looks around the ship but gets no satisfaction. Then Ben Howard, a fellow writer and Lo's (long ago) ex-boyfriend, suggests she might have imagined the incident because she was drunk and taking prescription medicine. This infuriates Lo and makes her (and me) suspicious of Ben. Before long important items go missing and Lo gets an intimidating message, which makes her even more determined to carry on - and (of course) endangers her life.
I liked the descriptions of the opulent vessel; the gourmet meals (molecular gastronomy); the well-appointed cabins; the passenger activities (spas and lectures); the relaxing hot tub; etc. Sounds like a fun cruise if you don't get thrown overboard (ha ha ha). The depictions of the various crew members and passengers - mogul, drunk, lecher, cancer patient, tart, and so on - also add interest to the book.
The book is engaging but Lo spends a lot of time questioning people, which becomes repetitive and slows down the story. Also, the plot is clever but not original. Nevertheless, I didn't guess the perpetrator until Lo did, and the book held my interest throughout. The climax is exciting and action-packed and I liked the author's use of press releases and online comments to heighten the suspense.
All in all a pretty good mystery, recommended to fans of the genre.
If you want to read a REALLY scary story about a cruise ship try Day Four by Sarah Lotz.