Pub. Date: April 19th, 2016
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller/ Suspense/ Crime Drama
What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.
Sometimes the only thing to fear…is yourself.
When reclusive writer Leonora is invited to the English countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. But as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters Leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the party is not alone in the woods.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I've been on such a kick with scary/mystery/thriller sorts of stories lately, so when I saw In a Dark, Dark Wood on my shelves I thought it was the perfect time to finally read it! It's gotten a lot of attention and the synopsis makes it sound interesting, even given the somewhat vague description, so I was ready and hoping to be scared out of my wits. So, did In a Dark, Dark Wood make me lose sleep and jump at every sound? Um, no. However, it did end up being a very good psychologically twisting story about the unreliability of memory and the lengths some people will go to in order to get exactly what they want.
I think the creepiest thing about this story is the setting. Leonora, or "Nora" as she prefers to be called, is roped into going to the hen party (a bachelorette party) for an old friend of hers that she hasn't spoken to in a decade. We know from the beginning that something bad happened that pretty much ended the relationship, but she agrees to go with a mutual friend anyways. The party is set to take place over the course of the weekend in this glass house in the middle of these isolated snow-covered woods. The descriptions of this house made me feel just as uncomfortable as the characters appear to be - which is great! - as they feel like anyone can look in on them at any time without their knowledge. It's frozen and barren outside, there's shoddy phone service so no way to call for help if they need it, and this group of mismatched friends of the bride-to-be are basically stuck in this display house for the weekend....creepy!
Another great aspect, and one that really helped fuel the thriller feeling for me, was the pacing and delivery of the story. The narrative unfolds as a slow release of information about each of the people at the hen party - both their past and present - as they "enjoy" the weekend festivities, interspersed with short chapters of Nora after the party, battered and in the hospital with only blurry memories of what happened and police officers wanting to question her regarding something horrible that has happened. It's a measured, insidious sort of dread that builds as the story progresses and one that becomes almost feverish in pitch as Nora tries to uncover what really did happened. She - and therefore the reader - isn't sure if she can believe her memories of how the weekend unfolded or, really, what she thinks is true about each of the people involved, including herself. This makes trying to decipher what actually went down so much fun.
In a Dark, Dark Wood wasn't necessarily as dark and frightening as I initially thought it would be, however it was still very enjoyable. I was even shocked to find myself laughing at some of the snark-filled jokes and statements some of the characters had a tendency to say, which helped break up some of the more dramatic or heavy moments nicely and gave more complexity to the characters. I would definitely recommend the story to anyone looking for a well paced thriller and mystery that keeps you guessing.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
It's okay. It's not the sort of cover that would draw my eyes to it automatically, but it does fit the bleak, black night and white, snow-covered forest theme of the story quite well.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
I bought a copy of In A Dark, Dark Wood for my own library. All opinions are mine alone. You can find more information about the book, including other reviews and where to purchase a copy, on Goodreads.