Sometimes those algorithm recommendations work out for the best. After listening to Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10, Audible decided that I would be a fan of her other books. Notably, In a Dark, Dark Wood. So, when I had my next credit I downloaded it. I loved Imogen Church’s narration with Cabin 10 and was pleased to see she was also the narrator for this thriller.
So, before I hop into my quick take, here is short synopsis.
Leonora, aka Leo, aka Le, aka Nora, is now a famous writer of crime novels. She lives in a small flat and doesn’t have many friends. But, there was a time when she had friends back in school and she’s been running from them ever since. That’s why she’s shocked when she gets an email for the “hen weekend” for an old friend from that time period. Her friend, Claire, is getting married and has invited her and a small group of friends to a very hidden country home. And Claire has news for Nora about the man she’s marrying. Another figure from their shared past. Flash forward 48 hours later and she wakes up in the hospital with little memory of what happened and has to work to remember. What happened between her arrival to the dark, glass home and her hospital bed? That’s what In a Dark, Dark Wood explores through alternating chapters.
What I loved: Just like with Cabin 10, Ware is able to create a claustrophobic setting that made me feel uncomfortable. Cabin 10 was on a boat, but In a Dark, Dark Wood is a dark house out in the woods that is made of glass. Slowly, the connections to the outside world are severed. Cell reception is non-existent. A snow storm comes through and cuts off phone lines. One of the guests, a new mother, decides she’s had enough time away from her baby and leaves making Nora feel like she can’t up and leave. In addition to the setting, the other characters feel like too much personality in a small space. Flo, the hostess, is obsessed with the perfect party and snaps at others who might dare ruin it for Claire. Claire’s overwhelming discomfort with her guests and the tension between her and Nora when the secret of the groom is revealed. Ware is able to tie the setting, characters and plot together, so that it feels like an ever tightening vise.
“The night was drawing in, and the house felt more and more like a glass cage, blasting its light blindly out into the dusk, like a lantern in the dark. I imagined a thousand moths circling and shivering, drawn inexorably to its glow, only to perish against the cold inhospitable glass.” –Ruth Ware, In a Dark, Dark Wood
Would I recommend?: I would. With a couple of caveats. There are some holes in the plot. I won’t go too much into detail because I don’t want to give away too much. There were moments when I would wonder about the motivation of Nora for taking certain actions. Why go on a party weekend for a girl you haven’t spoken to in several years? Isn’t it a red flag that you were invited to this and not the wedding? However, if you can not poke too hard, it’s an engaging read. You can certainly tell this was one of her first books. Cabin 10’s plot was certainly tighter. I’m eager to read her newest book The Lying Game.
Backlist bonus: The claustrophobic feeling is this book reminds me of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. They both had a feeling of the house slowly closing in on you. Plus, Rebecca is a classic!