Book Review: In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Title: In A Dark Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 30 July 2015

Twitter: @RuthWareWriter 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Someone’s getting married. Someone’s getting murdered.

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.


Thank you to Vintage Books for providing a review copy of this book.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the debut novel from Sussex author, Ruth Ware. It is one of the Richard & Judy Book Club choices for 2016, which should give you an idea just how good it is!
When mystery-writer Leonora Shaw (Nora or Lee – depending on who she is talking to) is invited to her old school friend Clare Cavendish’s hen party, she is reluctant to accept. They haven’t spoken for a decade and did not part on the best of terms. She now lives a comfortable and relatively happy life in London and Clare Cavendish is a part of her life that Nora would prefer to leave behind. However, despite her best intentions, another friend, Nina, talks her into going along on what will be a weekend that will not easily be forgotten!
The setting for the tale is ominous and claustrophobic – a glass house in the dark, cold woods, miles from the nearest neighbours and with no telephone reception. The glass house is a fitting and sinister backdrop, with so many windows that the characters are quite literally put on a stage, visible to anyone who may be lurking outside the house. You just know that things are not going to end well for the partygoers!  
The first half of the book is actually quite slow-placed which cleverly allows the tension to gradually build up as we get to know the characters involved. Nora is not enjoying herself and the other party guests seem similarly on edge, with the festivities feeling somewhat forced and juvenile, with drinking game “Never Have I Ever” and a Ouija board being brought into play. Whilst being in their 20’s, it feels as though they have returned to their school days. It seems that everyone is there through a sense of obligation rather than really wanting to be there and tensions quickly increase within the group as the weekend progresses. This book is certainly enough to put me off hen parties for the foreseeable future!!
The cast are an interesting bunch of characters. Nora is a likable protagonist, however she does seem somewhat flaky at times. The other characters, Nina, Clare, Flo, Tom and Melanie are all sufficiently developed to prove interesting to the reader, despite having no insight into their thoughts or intentions. Who can Nora really trust?
The narration of the story is interesting and alternates between flashbacks of the actual hen-party and the aftermath, where we see Nora in hospital with a head injury and amnesia. This gives us an unreliable narrator and a version of events as they unfold in Nora’s returning memories. In addition, we note that Nora keeps different personas for different people within her life – Leonora, Nora, Lee, L. N. Shaw – who is she really? And what is her involvement is in the events that have ultimately landed her in hospital. Without any memories of events, can she trust her own instincts and believe that she has done nothing wrong? Can we trust her? In a Dark, Dark Wood is an intriguing tale which keeps you on the edge of your seat as events unfold and we learn what has happened in the house and whether that occurrence was down to a stranger or to a member of the group.
Once I had started the book, I found myself unable to put it down. It is sinister, atmospheric and claustrophobic, packed with twists, turns and intrigue. Six relative strangers gathered in a remote location from which they cannot escape, one of them possibly with nefarious intentions and a mystery to solve – very Christie/Hitchcock-esque! In a Dark, Dark Wood is a must-read for fans of psychological thrillers/whodunits.
On a last note, I also liked the way the book ended, with the author leaving it up to the reader to decide what happens to Nora after the story has concluded.
In a Dark, Dark Wood is an incredible debutand I can’t wait to read more from Ruth Ware.

About the Author

Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

Her hen night was very tasteful and nobody got murdered.

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