Title: In a Dark Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Narrator: Imogen Church
Audiobook Length: 9 hours, 34 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 4 August 2015
“What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.
Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her ‘nest’ of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not ‘what happened?’ but ‘what have I done?’, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.”
Thoughts on the Novel: In a Dark Dark Wood is the best type of suspense novel. The setting is pitch perfect, and the characters are all just this side of crazy. The actual mystery remains an honest-to-goodness mystery for much of the novel, as Ms. Ware first sets the stage and then develops her characters. Only after relationships have been established and readers have a good insight into Nora’s mind does she move on to focus on the mystery.
This does not mean the story is boring. In fact, In a Dark Dark Wood is anything but boring. From the very first paragraph, the tone strikes the reader as foreboding, indicating that something is not quite right about this weekend party. Then there is the reasons for Nora’s attendance of said party. After all, as she says to herself on multiple occasions, it had been ten years since she had seen the bride-to-be. She does not even know why she decided to go. This is what draws the reader’s interest until the final mystery is revealed. We have all had those moments of wondering what a long-lost childhood friend is doing; in this regard, Nora is living out those moments for all of us.
As for the mystery, it has the added bonus of being a true mystery. Ms. Ware leads the readers down several paths and keeps her cards close to her chest. There are no major twists or red herrings; rather the paths are subtly engineered as possibilities. The reveal, when it finally occurs, is not necessarily a surprise but a confirmation of all the hints gathered along the way. At the same time, the final confrontation makes for quite a satisfying ending.
In a Dark Dark Wood is an impressive debut novel for Ms. Ware. She hits all the right notes with her foray into the world of suspense stories, keeping the tension high and a reader’s interest piqued. Her characters, or the ones that count, are nicely developed, and the setting is just about perfect for the type of story it is. The house’s unsettling appearance against the backdrop of a remote and dark woods creates all the right feelings for a novel in which the reader does not really know what has happened until the very end. With the darker days and even darker nights that are now upon us this October, In a Dark Dark Wood is an excellent way to spend an autumnal evening.
Thoughts on the Audiobook: Imogen Church does an excellent job narrating. The character list comes from all corners of Great Britain, something Ms. Church is able to distinguish with each of her voices. She even captures the subtle way that Nora reverts to her childhood persona by incorporating a slight change in accent and tonality when Nora talks about her past. It is an impressive performance, made all the more chilling by Ms. Ware’s words.