In a Dark, Dark Wood is a mystery, full of twists and turns, by first-time novelist Ruth Ware. Nora, a reclusive crime writer living in London, receives an invitation to a party to celebrate the marriage of Clare, a friend she hasn’t seen for ten years. On the spur of the moment, she decides to go, even though she’s reluctant. The party takes place in an isolated glass house by the woods in the north of England. There is no cell phone reception, and the landline is disconnected. And there are no books in the house. I love Nora’s comment that the house seemed empty because there were no books in it. The house is just as much a character in the book as the people in it. And it turns out to be a strange group of people, most of them very unpleasant, gathered at the house. They all know Clare, from different stages of her life, and everyone has secrets which are gradually revealed during the party. Nora soon finds out that Clare is marrying James, Nora’s ex-boyfriend. James was Nora’s first love, and she has never gotten over him. To give away much more would be to spoil the story, but someone ends up dead, and there are flash-forwards to Nora in a hospital room, with no memory of how she got there, and with police at her door.
The book is very suspenseful, and an unusual mystery because you don’t know who’s dead until more than halfway through the book. And you don’t know if Nora is a suspect or a victim who survived the crime. Are the police there to question her or protect her? Will she regain her memory of what happened? Ruth Ware keeps you turning the pages. My one criticism is that the characters seem too young to be so successful in their careers. Nora is only 26, but she already makes so much money as a writer that she doesn’t need to work another job, even though her books are not best-sellers. That rang false to me. But this is only a slight criticism. Other than that, In a Dark, Dark Wood is an excellent debut novel and an exciting mystery.
In a Dark, Dark Wood is available from the Shapiro Undergraduate Library: http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/013870531 and from the Recreational Reading Collection at the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library: http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/013915095 .