rw

If the murderous goings on at a stag do in Peter James` Dead Simple chilled you to the bone, Ruth Ware sets out to even the score in In A Dark Dark Wood,  with a hen weekend that is full of  deliciously disturbing surprises. With my normal, cynical air, I feared that my general apathy with British psychological thrillers would continue as I embarked on this one. Idly sitting down to read a few pages to test the water, I was hooked. Completely. And breaking only for some quick refreshment, I read this in pretty much one sitting…

Crime writer Leonora (Nora) Shaw leads a fairly solitary existence in London, mostly happy to keep herself to herself, with sporadic entertainment provided by her larger than life best friend Nina. Out of the blue, she and Nina receive an invitation to a hen weekend in the wilds of Northumbria, from a mystery woman called Flo, purporting to be a close friend of the bride, Clare Cavendish What is strange for Nora is that she and Claire broke all contact ten years ago, for reasons as yet unrevealed, so why the invite? Egged on by Nina, Nora accepts the invitation and quelle surprise, this is where the trouble really begins…

As far as any expansion on the plot goes, I am keeping it zipped, as it is tricky to avoid spoilers, and spoil your participation as a reader, trying to untangle and second-guess the nature of the relationships at play. With the plot shifting between the events of the weekend itself , and the aftermath with Nora finding herself at the centre of a police investigation, the pacing of this book is exemplary. With the Christie-esque air of a pseudo country-house mystery, there is palpable feel of tension and claustrophobia pervading the whole book. With our six relative strangers, trapped in some horrible contemporary glass monstrosity in the woods in the beginning of winter, the location works beautifully to ratchet up the feeling of peril. The house becomes almost another character in the book, made even more sinister by the encroaching tendrils of the dark, dark woods. Likewise, the tension that Nora and Nina feel in this setting, amplifies the feeling of dread that both experience over the course of the weekend, and to be honest I would have turned tail fairly sharpish.  Woods + goldfish bowl of a house + remote location = whole heap of trouble…

Another real strength of the book is the characterisation, and the balance of Nora’s reticent and introverted nature, making her a highly empathetic character, is superbly counterbalanced by the boisterous, loud and kick ass attitude of Nina. Hence, the juxtaposition of two such contrary characters works very well, particularly when they find themselves even more closely aligned in their mockery and suspicion of their fellow ‘hen’ guests- Clare, the icy bride-to-be, Flo, the mental chief bridesmaid, Tom, camp best friend, and Melanie, the over emotional new mum. It’s a real melting pot of weirdness, and as events from the past come to light, be prepared for some very odd and irrational behaviour indeed. Oh. And a murder…

On the whole, I enjoyed this debut very much. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the ending, but to be honest, with the strength of how it had built up to this point, it wasn’t really a major problem. Heaps more enjoyable than Girl On A Train (or any other book at the moment with girl in the title), and in true reviewer style, I’ve little hesitation in announcing this a total page-turner. Oh, and take a peep underneath the dust jacket. A thing of beauty lurks beneath…

(With thanks to Random House for the ARC)

Advertisements