Richard and Judy Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Richard and Judy Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

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"Much of this stylish thriller is told in flashback. The chapters alternate between past and present and the book opens with Nora waking up in hospital, desperately trying to remember what dreadful thing has happened. So right from the start, we know that the hen party ended in tragedy, and slowly the lies that led to catastrophe are exposed."

Richard’s review

Judy read this book before I did and described the plot to me as ‘the hen party from hell.

Ive never been to a hen party (obviously, although one of the guests at this very unpleasant ‘do is, in fact, a man) but if they are anything like this one, Id advise anyone to stay well clear.

Right from the start the party is doomed. Everything goes wrong and theres a lot of drugs and alcohol floating around. The atmosphere quickly becomes frayed and menacing. The house itself symbolises the unseen danger looming over the gathering. Its modernistic and made almost entirely of glass, so the behaviour of all the guests is, as Ware cleverly implies, clearly visible.

It is as if the house is a brightly-lit stage, and everything the guests do is in plain sight of anyone who might be watching them. The exposure of all the rooms paradoxically brings an air of claustrophobic fear to the proceedings. The guests can see out to the snowy, deserted forest, where not another dwelling is to be seen, but when night falls, who is out there, hiding, waiting, watching?

This setting is reminiscent of an Agatha Christie story. The tense, nervous characters are cheek-by-jowl together, confined and constricted. The reader is aware that something terrible is about to happen. But what? And to whom?

Much of this stylish thriller is told in flashback. The chapters alternate between past and present and the book opens with Nora waking up in hospital, desperately trying to remember what dreadful thing has happened. So right from the start, we know that the hen party ended in tragedy, and slowly the lies that led to catastrophe are exposed.

A pacey, fast read and hugely enjoyable.

"Ruth Ware prefaces the first page of her debut thriller with this traditional rhyme used to scare children from time immemorial."

Judy’s review

‘In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house;
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room;
And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard:
And in the dark, dark cupboard there was… a skeleton.

Ruth Ware prefaces the first page of her debut thriller with this traditional rhyme used to scare children from time immemorial. Its a clever device, and slyly points to the sophisticated set-piece nature of this slick, pacey novel.

Nora is 26, a writer living a fairly lonely life in London. One day she gets a surprise e-mail inviting her to an old friends hen weekend at a remote house deep in a wood. Shes surprised because the ‘hen concerned, Clare, is someone Nora hasnt seen for 10 years. The two used to be best friends as children; then something happened and Nora abruptly left school for some mysterious reason. The two havent spoken since.

Apart from Clare, Nora knows only one other of the invited guests. Curious, despite her initial misgivings, she agrees to go.

The venue for the weekend is a big modern glass house set deep in Northumbrian woods. Ware creates the creepy atmosphere of this setting beautifully: the openness of the glass house, brilliantly lit inside the deep, dark, silent forest; the trees outside shrouded in heavy snow.

The tension between the odd assortment of guests is palpable. They are a wonderfully creepy lot, and soon the weekend descends into sinister chaos. Nora cannot understand why she agreed to go. But she soon finds out why Clare wanted here there. And in a dark dark wood there is MURDER.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for In a Dark, Dark Wood

"A slickly plotted, whip smart thriller – genuinely chilling and totally compulsive."

Sunday Mirror

"Thrilling, gripping &amp well-written"

Metro

"Toxic friendships, an isolated house, a dark snowy wood… Everyone’s worst nightmare, and the perfect ingredients for this tense, terrifying novel"

Clare Mackintosh