Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Published: July 1st 2015
Publisher: Random House
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Rating: 3.5 stars
Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back.
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage – the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her.
But something goes wrong.
And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora.
Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark Dark Wood, features a reclusive crime writer named Leonora (Nora) Shaw. The events in the book begin when Nora is sent an invitation out of the blue to attend a long lost friend’s upcoming bachelorette party. Although she has not spoken to, or had any contact with her friend for over ten years, Nora accepts the invitation after some coercion from the maid of honour. A terrible secret held by the bride to be – Clare and Nora in high school, is the gel that binds them together. It also lures Nora, a young writer who craves solitude, away from her London home to the countryside location of Northumberland for the party.
A bachelorette party is the event that pulls together two once close friends, now strangers. Nora Shaw is joined by another high school friend Nina, to celebrate of Clare’s upcoming marriage. The glass house is a picturesque location of the party, nestled deep in the British countryside, chosen by the bride to be’s matron of honour, Flo. Flo is intent on making the party as memorable as possible for the bride to be. She has schedule of events, from games and activities, mixed with copious amounts of alcohol and some drugs. Joining Clare, Flo, Nora and Nina are two of Clare’s other friends, including a new mum Mel and gay friend Tom. It is an eclectic mix of guests and when alcohol is added to the tight atmosphere, secrets of the past are revealed. The party soon takes a turn for the worst and a terrible incident occurs. Clare and Nora find themselves in hospital after this said event. Nora is left bruised, battered and bloodied. She also has no recollection of how and why she is now in a hospital bed. What perplexes Nora the most are the police officers guarding her door. No one will let her speak to Clare or leave the hospital. It is a frantic search for Nora, as she tries to unscramble her mind, to work out the dreadful truth to the events that occurred at Clare’s bachelorette party.
Debut novelist Ruth Ware makes a worthy entrance into the mystery/thriller writing scene, with her first novel In a Dark Dark Wood. Readers who select this compelling novel, will enjoy the slick style of storytelling. The tension is high in this novel from the opening, the reader is unsure of what happened to the lead character Nora and who to trust, even Nora. Nora is in a hospital bed from the start of the novel, trying to recollect the events of the fateful party she attended. In a Dark Dark Wood uses an effective dual narrative method of storytelling to unfurl the events. The novel moves back and forth with a sense of ease, slowly revealing the happenings of the bachelorette party, with Nora’s time in hospital as she struggles with amnesia.
Ware sets her scene well from the very beginning of the novel. She hooks the reader in with the hospital scenes. Ware composes an intriguing scene, based at the isolated Northumberland location of the glass house, which acts as the predominant setting of the novel. From the start, there is a sense of something awful happening and suspicious elements are continually added. These include a series of unsettling occurrences, from a lack of mobile phone access, unknown footprints in the snow, as well as the sheer isolation of the house. All these elements work together to set a strong sense of unease for main character Nora, as well as the reader.
Ware casts a strong set of characters in her first novel. These characters work well as suspects and the reader is not quite sure what to make of their backgrounds, as well as their motivations. From the bride to be Clare, loner Leonora, enigmatic Tom, doting mother Mel, professional Nina and finally, the all too enthusiastic Flo. Ware takes care to ensure each character has their own secrets to share. This allows are plenty of room to build red herrings and form plot twists involving these characters, who we are never really certain about.
In the end, I found In a Dark Dark Wood a suspenseful tale that builds up to a thrilling conclusion. I especially loved the first half of the novel, where the time Ware devoted to scene setting and character building really gave the novel impact. In a Dark Dark Wood is a highly readable novel and I have no hesitation in recommending this mystery crossed thriller – but I warn it is best read under the comfort of your duvet!
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was published in July 2015 by Random House, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.