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  • Writer's pictureRob Lawton

"In a Dark, Dark Wood" by Ruth Ware

A well crafted mystery that kept me guessing until the end. You'll find a detailed review below. Don't worry about spoilers. You won't know whodunit until you become someone whopurchasedit.

The Plot

“In a Dark, Dark Wood” is described as a psychological thriller, the first of seven that Ruth Ware has written.

A young woman named Leonora receives an invite for Claire's hen do. Apparently, her best friend from childhood is getting married but Leonora doesn't remember any wedding invitation. The two of them haven't spoken in years. Puzzled as to why she was even invited to the hen party, Leonora decides to accept. The venue turns out to be a house nestled deep in the woods. One with no cell phone reception. Then it starts to snow, and the landline stops working. Soon, mystery writer Leonora finds herself trapped inside what feels like an Agatha Christie novel, complete with a dead body that is all too real.

Our Thoughts

Ruth Ware’s writing style is crisp and intriguing. The list of characters is short, giving the author time to fully develop all of them. I became emotionally invested in these fictional people. So much so that I had to remind myself these characters didn’t really exist. That none of this was really happening. That became my mantra. If I hadn’t been able to keep repeating those words, I would never have had the courage to finish the book.

A palpable atmosphere of foreboding gradually develops against a backdrop of fun and games that feel forced and anything but fun. Leonora's reunion with Claire stirs unhappy memories that contribute to the building tension as the reader is artfully guided toward a climax.

The author uses one of my favorite devices in all of mystery fiction. The protagonist who cannot remember what happened, making her an “unreliable witness.” Everything you learn about the unfolding drama is metered out by a character you can’t trust. Good stuff.

As you've no doubt surmised by now, there is nothing cozy about this mystery—despite the fact it’s a small cast of characters nestled inside a warm house in a snowy wood.

A quick scan reveals more than 8000 reviews written by people who enjoyed the book. That’s huge. So, when I say you should go out and buy “In a Dark, Dark Wood,” imagine those thousands of readers standing behind me, enthusiastically nodding their heads in agreement.

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