Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Scout Press
Date: April 19, 2016
Genre: Mystery / Fiction
Format: Paperback / Audiobook
My Rating: 4 Stars
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In a dark, dark wood
Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.
There was a dark, dark house
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And in the dark, dark room….
Some things can’t stay secret for ever.
The Goodreads description for this book is pretty sparse, so I’ll fill you in a bit more and do my best to avoid spoilers (because no one wants to go into a mystery novel knowing the mystery). The story begins when Leonora (Nora), a crime novelist living in London, receives an invitation to her estranged childhood friend’s hen party (bachelorette party). It’s been ten years since Nora and Clare have talked, so the invitation took her by surprise. Despite her hesitation, Nora’s curiosity gets the best of her and she decides to RSVP “yes.”
When Nora arrives at The Glass House in the woods of Northumberland for the weekend festivities she immediately begins to question her decision to come – why, after all these years of no contact, did Clare invite her to such a personal event? As the weekend unfolds Nora’s questions continue to grow, spurred by a series of suspicious events. On the final night, Nora and the other party guests hear an intruder enter the house and in a state of panic fire a gun. Who was murdered? How did the intruder come to be in the house? And what does it all mean for Nora, Clare, and the others?
This was my second Ruth Ware book; I read / listened to The Woman in Cabin 10 last month and I have to say I really enjoy her stories. I liked In a Dark, Dark Wood slightly more than I did Cabin 10, mostly because I have an intense fear of water and boats, so Cabin 10 was a difficult read for me (the crushing sense of watery claustrophobia was particularly vivid and left me feeling a little too panicky from time to time).
Both of Ware’s books have definite Agatha Christie vibes and in In a Dark, Dark Wood she calls direct attention to this by having two of the characters discuss the similarities between their current situation in The Glass House to the plot of And Then There Were None (other title Ten Little Indians). Like Christie’s story, in Ware’s book six people are drawn to a large, isolated house of windows in the Northumberland woods and although none of the six are murdered, a murder does take place.
I can usually figure out the mystery for most mystery / crime / thriller novels about two thirds of the way through (sometimes sooner if it’s poorly done), but Ware did an excellent job in this novel of casting doubt on a few of the characters up until the last few chapters. By the last quarter of the book, I knew the story had to go in one of two directions, but I honestly couldn’t confidently point to which one it was. In the end, Ware’s finale (at least in terms of the mystery) was satisfying and sufficiently creepy. That being said, I do think she could have done a bit more in terms of fleshing out the characters, specifically Nora and Clare, at the end. Like many mystery novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood seemed to end abruptly and I’d love to have heard a little more about the character’s lives post-weekend hen party.
Additionally, it was refreshing to read a mystery that didn’t heavily rely on an unreliable narrator. Although Nora is recounting the story while in the hospital for a head wound, she is not presented as someone who experiences periodic bouts of memory loss. She tells the story as her memories return to her; leaving the reader / listener in suspense about what is to come but not in doubt as to whether she can be trusted to tell the truth.
Overall I gave this book four out of five stars. It was a great read for October (even though it’s set in late November) and was an addicting audiobook to listen to. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys female-centered mysteries, Agatha Christie, or Ware’s other novels.
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