Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

A glass house in the middle of a forest, a group of friends and acquaintances, and a hen (bachelorette) party celebrating a beautiful, popular girl. What could go wrong? Author Ruth Ware (author of The Woman in Cabin 10) has written a compulsively readable thriller that I couldn’t put down. Leonora Shaw, a crime writer, is invited to the hen party of a school friend she hasn’t seen in ten years. She agrees to go, but an old memory keeps popping up, making her uncomfortable and heightening the odd things that keep happening in the house in the woods. Is her friend really the same person she used to be, or has she changed? Has Leonora really been able to move on from what happened so long ago? As the weekend goes on, the questions are answered, but even more come up as things get twisted and confused. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and that couldn’t be truer than in this novel.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is most definitely a thriller, but not gory or so scary that you won’t be able to read it at night. (Which I appreciate!) I love the way Ruth Ware tells a story, and I liked this book even more than The Woman in Cabin 10. (In fact, having read them in opposite publication order, I kind of feel like The Woman in Cabin 10 is the water-version of In a Dark, Dark Wood. Not a bad thing, just my observation.) The isolation of the house and the woods, and subsequently the guests, is wonderfully done and doesn’t feel contrived at all. I kept thinking of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None while reading this, as the atmosphere is very similar.

The characters are so well done, and while some are more likeable than others, unless you’re paying very close attention (and not completely swallowed up by the story like I was), you might not be able to guess what really happened until the end. My one caveat is that while I did like the characters for different reasons, I wasn’t really rooting for any one of them, even the main character. I just wanted to find out what really happened. There is some character development, but the novel is mostly plot-based. I’m ok with that since the writing was so good, and this is a thriller, not Jane Eyre.

I love a book that hooks me from the very first line, and this is one of those. It begins, “I am running.” So simple, and so effective. You’ll want to keep reading to find out why the narrator is running. If thrillers aren’t usually a genre you read, give this one a try! The story is great, and you might surprise yourself by becoming a fan! If this IS your genre, it should hold you over until Paula Hawkins’ new book, Into the Water: A Novel, is published on May 2!