What do you get when you mix an awkward group of people, a cabin in the woods, and a shotgun? In Ruth Ware’s novel, In A Dark, Dark Wood, the answer is not what you might expect. Yes, of course, there is a murder, but the story is not obvious and remains a mystery until the very end.
We’ve all had a falling out with someone, whether it be a past romantic partner, a friend, or family member. Some of us may have even experienced that drop in our stomachs when we see a message pop up for the first time in years with their name. When main character Nora receives an email with an invitation to her estranged best friend Clare’s hen party (hen = bachelorette) she experiences the drop and more. This would be one of those key moments to “go with your gut.”
On the surface the book sounds like it could be cheesy: a group of ladies at a hen party, staying in a cabin for the weekend, when all of a sudden things start turning creepy. When do things not when a Ouija board gets involved? Really though, what made this a good, thrilling story is that it could actually happen in real life. Ware takes an event that’s supposed to be “wild” and fun and turns it into a terrifying experience. She also brings up the reality that the past can return to bite you in the ass and a burned bridge is not always final.
In today’s world of remakes in the thriller/drama genre, it can be hard to come across an original story—to read, hear, or see a new plotline you haven’t heard 100 times so you can predict every next turn. For me that was one of the best parts of the story; it constantly kept me on my toes. Ware mastered what it means to leave the audience wanting more.
Each time I decided I was going to take a break, she’d end the chapter with the reader on edge, in the middle of an incomplete thought. While reading I was constantly telling myself, “ok, I’ll stop after this chapter,” but the hooks at the end of the chapters made it hard to stop. They left me feeling antsy to the point where I found myself reading until the very last second I had to get off my train.
Ware also kept the storyline fresh and consistently reignited the fear by weaving chapters set in the future with the present. Enough happens in the flash forwards to get the reader worked up, but they’re cryptic enough to keep the truth a mystery. The reader gets a chance to play detective and start putting together the pieces.
In the mix of all the interesting characters and secrets, someone is going to die and the ultimate question is “why?” Is it someone lurking out in the winter woods, or is it someone staying under the same cozy roof? The lesson of this story can be best summed up by Piper Chapman in season three of Orange is the New Black: Trust No Bitch.
In A Dark, Dark Wood
August 4th, 2015