I was contacted recently by Harvill Secker and sent a digital copy of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, which comes out on July 30th. I didn't start reading the book immediately, but when I did I finished it in a single evening. It is totally un-put-down-able, and yes I know that isn't a word or even a phrase but I'm still going with it. I know I'm onto something special when I drown out everything else and greedily consume a book, and that's exactly what I did. There's something so compelling about obnoxious characters in books, and this one has a few of them.
Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Our protagonist Leonora (referred to Lee/Nora throughout the book), a writer, finds herself invited to her old friend Clare's hen weekend, after 10 years with no contact between them whatsoever. Nora left her home town and all her friends behind after school and never returned, and her reasons for doing so slowly emerge as we progress through the book. Despite being perplexed as to why she's been invited after all this time, she accepts the invite, making a pact to attend only if her friend Nina also accepts. They drive from London to Northumberland to an eerie glass fronted house set in ominous woods in the countryside. It's set in snowy November, further increasing the sense of isolation caused by the lack of mobile phone signal and the perplexing failure of the house's land line.
Things are uncomfortable from the outset as Nora is wondering if there's an agenda to why she's been invited, especially when she realises she hasn't been invited to the wedding itself. All becomes clear during the weekend, as Nora discovers the groom-to-be is a blast from her own past. The other attendees aside from Nina - who's a doctor - are Melinda, a young mum who leaves early to get back to her baby; Tom, a gay playwright who's an honorary 'hen'; and Flo, who is Clare's highly-strung BFF. Flo is completely under the bride-to-be's thrall, in an obsessive and creepy way. It is Flo's aunt's house they stay in for the hen weekend.
When the group drunkenly bring out a Ouija board, it spells out Mmmmmmuurderrrrrrrrrrrrrer and it understandably puts the group on edge. In the middle of the night an unexpected visitor enters the house, a shotgun which was supposed to be filled with blanks goes off, and someone dies. Who's to blame, and who's being set up to carry the can? Things are not as they seem, and as the book picked up pace I found my heart racing, especially in the last 50 pages or so, when staying up to read late into the dark night on my own didn't seem like such a good idea any more!
I didn't guess the twists and turns until the denouement was laid before me, and it was an exhilarating read. There are no hackneyed tick-box formulas to be found in this book. I was left guessing who the mastermind of the crime was until it was spelled out for me as I was so caught up in the book and in a thirst to finish it. It was a refreshing change for me to read a thriller novel set in the UK, as most of the ones I read are set abroad. This is an amazing debut novel from Ruth Ware, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
A definite recommend. I'm so excited about female helmed crime/thriller books again.
For: Fans of The Girl on the Train and the Gillian Flynn series.
Ruth Ware website
*I was sent an e copy of this book for review and absolutely recommend it. Receiving this book for free has not shaped my opinion in any way.