ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. Ware has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and a press officer. She is married and has two children. In a Dark, Dark Wood is her debut thriller. She changed her name to Ruth Ware to distinguish her crime novels from the young-adult fantasy novels published under her name, Ruth Warburton.
People don’t change. They just get more punctilious about hiding their true selves.
When Leonora Shaw wakes up in the hospital with memory gaps and a head wound, one of the first questions she asks is, “What have I done?” Through flashbacks, Ware slowly unspools the mystery, putting forth a truly spooky scene as six related strangers gather at the isolated Glass House to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Nora’s former friend Clare Cavendish. Interestingly, Nora has not spoken to Clare in a decade.
Ware does an amazing job at pacing her story with just about enough context. This is important as at no point do the readers feel suffocated with an overdose of the backstory. The sudden present-day shift in Chapter 4 is quite likable, when we learn that Nora has been hospitalized after a collision incident. It was this accident that inhibited her memory of what had led to the car crash that started it all.
In fact, memory is responsible for a lot of the tension in the book as these characters are constantly forced to reopen and reexamine old wounds from their pasts. Most of this trauma is inflicted by one another. It is noteworthy that the “glass house” sort of eclipses this ability to remember things properly. While it might come across as odd, there are so many mentions of the wood and how dark and massive it is that it almost becomes a character of its own.
It was growing dark, and somehow the shadows made it feel as if all the trees had taken a collective step towards the house, edging in to shut out the sky.
Throughout In a Dark, Dark Wood, there is this overarching motif of transparency; there is a constant insinuation and suspicion of what lurks in the wood. The juxtaposition of what can and cannot be seen or determined makes this book all the more exciting as a mystery. As Tom explained earlier in Chapter 2, the forest and the glass house act very much like an audience and stage. The glass house is where the spectacle takes place, and the actors are often unbeknownst of the spectators, much like how the guests are to whatever (or whoever) is looming in the wood. The personification, whether intended or not, is very fitting.
Ruth Ware is one gem of a writer and she drops hints like no other. In a classic Agatha Christie-like fashion, the first half of the novel is masterful in the slow build of suspense. Clearly, something is very wrong, but it is unclear whether it is Nora, Clare, Flo, or some outside intruder who is responsible for the growing unease. The plot is engrossing, the setting great, the characterization (despite the loser status of the lead) golden, and the mystery build-up mesmerizing.
The major blip of the story is that the characters are very immature and one-dimensional. All of them, including the protagonist, are a delightful cast of horrible, unlikable characters. That said, such a strange cast of characters, when served as a cocktail of enigma, comes across as absolutely perfect. Suspicions are easily cast on a few characters. Still, readers have to proceed with an open mind as there is a ton of creepy, telltale stuff that goes on inside that glass house, which makes them weary of just about everyone.
In a Dark, Dark Wood is a very fast read, just a hair over 300 pages for the paperback version. Claiming 3.4 stars out of 5, this book is recommended as a low-weight, high-intensity thriller.
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