In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
2015 Scout Press (Simon & Schuster imprint)
Finished on August 30, 2015
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
An NPR Best Book of the Year, 2015
A ShelfAwareness Best Book of the Year, 2015
A Publishers Weekly “Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers” Pick
From the Executive Editor’s note in the ARC:
Leonara (known to some as Lee and others as Nora) is an extremely private person. A crime writer by trade, she is suspicious of everything and everyone, and prefers to be alone, holed up in her cozy nest of an apartment, as isolated as possible from the outside world and from certain… incidents in her past. But when an email arrives with an invitation to a weekend away in a remote house in the English countryside, she is thrown for a loop. The sender is a person from her past whom she hasn’t spoken to in ten years. And try as she might to ignore it, her curiosity gets the best of her… and we all know what curiosity did to the cat.
Forty-eight hours later, Lee (Nora?) wakes up in a hospital bed with severe injuries and a foggy memory. But most alarming of all is that her first thought isn’t, “What happened?” but “What have I done?”
In the bestselling tradition of Asa Harrison’s The Silent Wife and S.J. Watson’s riveting national sensation Before I Go to Sleep, this gripping literary debut will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
In a Dark, Dark Wood is everything you want in a psychological thriller: Strange noises in the middle of the night, footsteps on a landing, a door opening very softly, a creak on the stairs, unexplained footprints in the snow, and an isolated house with a wall of windows looking out into dark, dark forest. The creepiness begins after Nora’s arrival at an old friend’s hen party and I was immediately pulled into the tension of the narrative, holding my breath and wishing I could somehow cover my eyes with a blanket during the scary parts! There’s nothing supernatural about the book, but I kept thinking of Stephen King’s novels and how the details and setting can create a sense of terror when maybe there’s really nothing to be afraid of.
For some reason his words made me shiver. Perhaps it was the tree trunks, like silent watchers in the growing dark. Or perhaps it was the lingering chill that Tom and Melanie had brought with them from the outside. Either way, leaving London, I’d thought the weather had felt like autumn. Suddenly, so much farther north, it felt like winter had come overnight. It wasn’t just the close-growing pines shutting out the light with their dense needles, nor the cold crisp air with its promise of frost to come. The night was drawing in, and the house felt more and more like a glass cage, blasting its light blindly out into the dusk, like a lantern in the dark. I imagined a thousand moths circling and shivering, drawn inexorably to its glow, only to perish against the cold inhospitable glass.
Ruth Ware’s debut thriller is quite an intense read. I enjoyed the build-up, but felt the final revelation to be a bit anticlimactic. Nonetheless, I look forward to her next endeavor and, in spite of the scary nature of the book, I’m anxious to see what Reese Witherspoon does with the movie she’s developing, based on the novel. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Luckiest Girl Alive and Gone Girl will not be disappointed with this page-turner. Recommend.