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Mad about books: ‘In A Dark Dark Wood’ by Ruth Ware


WARNING: Do not read this book at night because I couldn’t put it down and when a roommate came into my room I jumped a foot in the air. When I finally put the book down, I had to sleep with the bathroom light on. While the beginning of “In a Dark Dark Wood” is rather slow, setting up characters, locations and motives, the creepiest parts are in the middle when some footprints are discovered. 

Let’s backtrack. “In a Dark Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware, follows Nora (or Lee or Leo, depending on who’s asking). She gets invited to a bachelorette party (also known as a Hen) of an old friend who she hasn’t spoken to in ten years, Clare. This party is being held remote Northcumblerland, a house that is owned by the aunt of the maid of honor, Flo. Flo is determined to throw Clare the perfect party, despite only six people showing up for the weekend. The house is known as “the glass house,” as there are windows all around but no curtains to shut the world out. There may not be a need for curtains, considering there aren’t any other houses for miles around, and the only thing you can see out the windows are the woods surrounding the property.  

Along with Nora, Clare and Flo, other party members include Nina, a sarcastic doctor, Tom, a playwright, and Melanie, a new mother. Nora constantly asks herself why she came to this party, what she was doing, what she is trying to prove and to whom- herself or Clare?  

Weird things start happening at the house. When Nora goes out for a run in the early morning, she sees footprints leading to the kitchen to the garage, but everyone in the house insists it wasn’t them. Then the only landline dies, leaving the guests with no cell service and no other way to call people. The bachelorette activities include going to a shooting range and playing with an Ouija board. With the house covered in windows, Nora can’t help but feel like they are being watched.  

On the second night of the party, someone is murdered. We don’t know how or why until much later in the book, and the identity isn’t revealed until the middle. What I enjoyed is that you think it’s fairly obvious who did it, but at the same time Nora’s recollection of events puts doubt into the reader’s mind, and even then, the reader has to figure out the motive.  

The chapters go back and forth between the party and afterward, when Nora is in the hospital trying to remember how she ended up there. She has a head injury, and she was allegedly in a car crash, but no one can remember why.  

Despite the fact that this book was fairly standard for a thriller, I could barely put it down and it was so enjoyable to read. Ware said in an interview with Simon and Shuster that she was inspired by Agatha Christie, “with a finite cast of people in a remote house they can’t escape from.” One thing that bothered me is that the drama and secrets between certain people were from high school, and now everything from then is coming out 10 years later at this bachelorette party, which just seems unrealistic and juvenile to me (I would hope that any drama from my high school days stays there, I don’t know who would want to carry that with them.)  

What creeped me out the most was the footprints, and when someone points out “We wouldn’t have even known they were there if not for the snow.” Something about that sent shivers down my spine.  

This is a good introduction to thrillers and mysteries for those who haven’t read many, and Ware is great at setting up characters if you like more character-driven books.  

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