This is a modern day whodunit that reads much like an Agatha Christie mystery except with current technologies like cell reception and texting capability. Five women and one man gather for a ‘hen’ party, the British equivalent of an American bachelorette party, to celebrate the nuptials of Clare. Surprised by the invite since she hasn’t spoken to Clare (her ex-best friend) in years, curiosity gets the best of main character Lenora (also known as Lee, Leo or Nora), who decides to tag along to the fete with Nina (her current best friend). At final count, there is Nora, Clare, Nina, Melanie (who experiences an acute case of separation anxiety from her new born), Flo (the overly eager new best friend of Clare) and Tom (the gratuitous gay male friend).
The setting is the perfect thriller locale: a house deep in a ‘dark, dark wood’ belonging to Flo’s aunt who is elsewhere. The house is big and austere and almost becomes a character in the story. With huge windows facing out, the occupants can only see a short distance into the woods but seem utterly exposed to anything or anyone outside that glass. The entire time the group is in the house, as a reader, you feel on edge about exactly what IS out there.
The story is peppered with the right amount of red herrings, plot twists, and eerie occurrences. Author, Ruth Ware adeptly works her mystery writer magic that keeps you repeatedly changing your mind about which characters are villains and which are just unlucky bystanders roped into something wicked.
No thriller would be complete without a death, and this book has one. Interestingly though, the actual death is anti-climactic compared to the journey to it and the aftermath. Ware creates tension in the story from start to finish.
While I did figure out the final plot twist just a bit before it was revealed, that discovery took nothing away from the build up of the mystery. “In a Dark, Dark Wood” will have you double-checking that your doors are locked if you’re reading it at night. It is a solid mystery with the right amount of chill.
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars