In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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I am a sucker for a book that looks as if it might be perfect to cosy up with under a blanket by the fire to read. And if it promises a thrilling mystery tinged with a large does of fear, then all the better. So when I saw the cover of In a Dark, Dark Wood I absolutely had to read it.

Six people gather in a large, modern house in the middle of the woods for an old friend’s hen weekend.  Novelist Nora, the main protagonist, hasn’t seen bride-to-be Clare for years, and it seems there is some long-held animosity between them. Clare’s friend Flo appears to be totally obsessed with her, and slightly unhinged. There is much forced-fun and drinking, and plenty of tense moments between the six invitees.

As the narrative raced along, I got sucked into the plot, with a keen-ness to discover the secret between Nora and Clare. Then the story started to divide between the telling of events in the house, and from Nora’s hospital bed where she has obviously sustained injury but struggles to remember what happened.

In the Dark, Dark Wood has all the makings of a classic, closed-house murder mystery: the house remote and shut off from the outside world, and the characters with their hidden secrets. The relationships in the house slowly unravelling, and the unreliable narrator, Nora, with her injuries causing amnesia. Everyone is under suspicion at one point or another.

My two negatives are: I found Nora intensely irritating, with her inability to ask questions or realise what was going on. I didn’t ever understand her motivation for going along to the hen weekend of someone she hadn’t spoken to for ten years.  I also felt that it lacked proper creepiness. The ingredients were there, the large glass-walled house which looks out onto the dark, snow-lit wood, an opportunity for voyeurism at it’s best, but it just fell a little short.

I would recommend this as a quick, easy read for holidays. It has one heck of a pace and engages you immediately.

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