Seriously, this book is the best murder mystery that I've read in the past 5 years. In my favorite scene, small group of friends are huddled around a Ouija board on a snowy night in an isolated English country house. They are there celebrating Clare's impending marriage to James. Florence, the hen party weekend organizer has decided that this will be a fun way to explore the future. However, when the Ouija board pointer spells out mmmnMurder, their already frayed nerves become bare wires. Author Ruth Ware takes a classic murder plot and spins it freshly in her first novel "In a Dark, Dark Wood."
You've Just Got to Read This Murder Mystery Book - In a Dark, Dark Wood
An isolated English country house, six friends, and a Ouija Board that warns mmmmMurder!
Secrets and Hurts
Ruth Ware Gives Us Lots of Motives
Clare was the popular girl in elementary and high school. She is beautiful and basks in the advantages that pretty girls always have. Nora was her best friend in school. Not so pretty and not one to fit in easily, Nora relied on her friendship with Clare to avoid being bullied and teased. This worked as long as she stayed on Claire's good side.
Florence is Clare's new best friend. She is obsessed with pleasing Clare and and becomes hysterical when the smallest detail of the hen weekend goes awry. We learn she has already had one mental breakdown. Why is she so afraid of disappointing Claire?
Nina is a surgeon who lives in London. She is also a Lesbian who was outed by Claire in high school. Does this matter ten years later?
There was a Car Wreck
Was It an Accident or Murder?
Who Died in the Accident?
We meet Nora as she's lying in a hospital bed trying to regain her memory. All she knows for certain is that there are policemen outside her room and that they are now investigating a car accident. Soon that accident becomes a murder investigation. The police will not tell her which of her friends is dead or what role she played in it.
Nora spends most of the book in her hospital room. We learn the story through her attempts to remember the accident.
She is a writer who lives in London and has a comfortable, but predictable life. Her morning runs take her outside to challenge her body and emails from her editor challenge her mind. One morning an email from a stranger named Florence puzzles her. She is hosting a hen party for Clare, would Nora please, please come. It would make everything perfect.
Nora has not spoken to Clare in ten years. After an upsetting end to a relationship, she finished her exams and transferred to another school. Clare is the only person in the entire world who knows the reason for the breakup. Nora has no desire to face this. In the ten years since the breakup, she has not dated anyone. Nora also cannot understand how her attendance will make the hen party perfect.
Her instincts tell her not to go. Seeing Clare will not make anything better. However, Nina lives in London and the two have remained close friends. Nina, who is unaware that Clare and Nora share a secret, convinces her that the two should go.
In a Dark, Dark Wood has a Classic English Country House Plot
No Landlines, No cellphones, and a Snowstorm
For today's twenty-somethings, just being off-the-grid can make them crazy. Then put them in an isolated country house and the tension will start to build. The country house in In a Dark, Dark, Wood is not warm and cozy. It is a stark modern home with a large band of windows. Soon the book's characters start imagining people standing in the woods and watching them through the windows.
Neighbors were so incensed when the house design was approved, they burned it down. The owner, Florence's aunt rebuilt it and made it even more outrageously modern. So it wasn't entirely wrong to think that someone might be in the woods watching them.
Skeet shooting is a classic English countryside past-time. Florence decided that learning how to shoot guns would be a creative hen party game.
Ruth Ware deftly increases the suspense. Each hen party game reveals a new secret or slander. Clare continues to manipulate her friends, but they are older and just a little wiser. They no longer stay silent against her barbs. Florence becomes more shrill as the guests assert their independence. Everyone becomes more frightened as mysterious footprints appear in the snow.