In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is a mystery novel in which a hen party turns deadly.
In a Dark Dark Wood
Leonora hasn’t seen her childhood friend Clare for ten years. Not since it happened, the thing that sent her life on a completely different course. So why is she suddenly invited to Clare’s hen party? It will become clear (or murkier…) when Clare reveals she’s marrying the very man that broke Nora’s heart. As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But this mystery novel will have you wondering who exactly is the scorned woman.
I’m so excited to talk about this book today because I have tried several times to read The Woman in Cabin 10, another of Ware’s acclaimed novels, and I could not get into it. It had everything I wanted in a mystery book, but try as I might, I couldn’t connect with the story.
I thought Ware might be lost to me, which deeply saddened me because as a lover of mystery fiction, I always want more and discovering an author with a backlist is better than Christmas.
So you can imagine my excitement when I opened In a Dark Dark Wood and fell directly into it. Y’all, this story was everything I wanted and more. Thank you, reading gods, for curing my Ware block!
(*Side note: I also cannot for the life of me get into The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah just to give you some context. It is literally not the book. It’s me. And this is why I write this blog. Books are subjective! It’s okay not to connect with a book at any point in time. Embrace another one! It’s cool. It’s all good. We’re all happy to share our stories!)
I got all the characters I love to analyze in this one. We have our flawed main character, the best friend sidekick who is not perfect at all, the slightly edgy guest who is unknown to our main character, the definitely obsessive host, the ambiguous woman of the hour with a past you don’t trust, and best of all, you get the completely normal guest…who leaves!
Yes! Ware has a guest leave! This mystery book borders on a locked room mystery as it takes place in a strange remote house in the middle of a (you guessed it!) dark dark wood, but then suddenly a guest simply leaves. I loved it. The locked room was broken, and the reader is left questioning everything.
Guests can simply leave? They can just walk away from the nightmare that’s about to unfold?
I love the portrayal of friendships in his mystery novel. You have the bride, Clare, and the main character, Nora. Nora and Clare were best friends during their childhood, but the author immediately makes this acceptance unstable. The reader is given clues to question whether Nora actually wanted to be friends with Clare. But then the hen party is littered with other “friends” of Clare. Each friend has a different perception of Clare. This worked brilliantly to keep the reader guessing until the end. We were never given a clear picture of who Clare is and this kept clouding the motivation of others. A great tactic in a mystery novel!
This is a very fast-paced mystery book. I liked the back and forth of Nora in the present and Nora trying to remember what happened at the hen party. The characters are rich, dubious, and questionable, and this only adds a layer to the whodunnit aspect. The setting is perfectly creepy with a glass house in a remote location. I’m so glad I tried again. I will be going back through Ms. Ware’s backlist and reveling in it.