Truthfully going in to this book, I was expecting the next Gone Girl. Given how it’s been on best seller lists for months and finding it always checked out at the library, I had built this hype up in my head to have finally found the fix to my Gone Girl withdrawal. So..I was a tad disappointed. But and that’s a big but, In a Dark, Dark Wood is an excellently written, thoroughly engaging mystery. When six friends converge at a hen party (called a Bachelorette party in our neck of the wood, no pun intended) for “an erstwhile Amy’esque” Clare, no less at a remote cabin in the English countryside, no one expects in their wildest dreams for a few to not make it out alive. After all this was to be a wild, fun weekend. A last hurrah before the momentous I do’s. Except, all is not what it seems, the goings-on compounded by the fact that our protagonist (Lee) Nora looks to have had a very troubled past with her once upon a time BFF, Clare. Add in a dash of Tom (Clare’s acquaintance from the theatre scene), Flo (Clare’s eccentric but worships her to a fault friend) and Nina (Clare’s friend from a past life; a doctor that takes no prisoners) to the mix, and you’ve got yourself one enticing, nail biting story line. There is also Melanie (another friend also invited for the weekend to the hen) but I think the author could have thrown her character in, to be more of a red herring than to add to the plot line. At the crux of all this is “James”, Clare’s fiancé, and in an effort to keep this free of spoilers, I’ll say is the “proof in the pudding”. The book chronicles the events of a weekend around the hen party that ends with disastrous consequences. What I liked most, are the well thought out settings and character traits, which only add to deepen the suspense as the story builds to a climax. The fact that the cabin is all glass, and the woods being pitch black around, remind Nora of actors on stage that are shone upon by the spotlight, with the audience fading into the dark shadows. Clare, the statuesque blond to Nora’s plain girl demeanor, gives us an inkling of a feeling familiar. What would’ve made it better? I think, slicker plot twists and faster pace. Because once you get to the later part of the book, the answer seems pretty transparent to even the novice mystery reader, and that takes away from some of the thrill and anticipation that has been building up. Now, you can’t wait for it to be over. Nora’s internal monologues could have been trimmed to some extent and her inability to see the obvious grates on you. Similar to the ostrich, that buries it’s head in the sand and refuses to look at the danger lurking nearby. For the most part, the narrative does give you a feeling of a monumental twist that is just round the corner, and all you have to do is hold on long enough. It only goes to say how phenomenal Ruth Ware’s writing is, that even after knowing “Who Dunn It”, I was still expecting her to pull the rug out from under me. Though a predictable ending, In a Dark, Dark Wood puts you on edge way past the half way point. And that is no mean feat in my opinion.
The lowdown: 3 1/2 of 5. Keeping my eyes peeled for what more this author has cooking for us.
(image via amazon.com)