Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Saturday, 3 December 2016
"I lay awake, trying to go to sleep, but instead I was thinking about the evening and the strange little group Clare had gathered around her this weekend. I wanted to leave so badly it hurt — to be back at home, in my own bed, with my own things, in the blissful peace and quiet. Now I was counting down the hours, and listening to Nina's soft snores and behind that to the silence of the house and the forest."
I began reading In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware around the time it was released, in July; but after a few false starts I abandoned it. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying it. It's gripping from its first page. But In a Dark, Dark Wood is far from a beach read. Suspenseful and nail-biting, it's far more appropriate for Halloween, which is around the time I finally devoured it along with a few battered books by R.L. Stine I've hoarded since my teen years.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the story of Leonora — known as Nora or Lee, depending on who is addressing her — an English mystery novelist who has recently received a strange invitation. She's been invited to Clare Cavendish's hen (Known to we North Americans as a bachelorette party) in a glass cottage in the clearing of a forest. She reluctantly attends, despite not having spoken to Clare for a decade — under circumstances that aren't revealed to the reader until the book's final chapters. This decision thrusts Nora (as readers know her) into the centre of a plot fraught with suspense, friction, and eventually, murder.

Failing cellphone reception, a broken landline, and mysterious footprints quickly put Nora and Clare's other guests on edge, leaving readers to guess who, or what, lurks outside the cottage. In a Dark, Dark Wood is endlessly unsettling, and, for me, a novice suspense and thriller reader, it was never predictable. Finishing it in less than a week, it's no surprise to me that it was named an NPR 2015 Best Book of the Year and will soon be adapted as a major motion picture by Reese Witherspoon.

I read In a Dark, Dark Wood in an attempt to expand my reading horizons, which most often includes literary fiction and non-fiction. I must admit that 2016 has been a year of books that have become unlikely favourites for me, and this is one of them. I can't wait to read The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware's next thriller, which will be released next month.

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