Looking for an excuse to stay up all night? You just found one. Ruth Ware's IN A DARK, DARK WOOD is a compulsively readable, spine-tingling thriller—an AND THEN THERE WERE NONE for the modern day. My only recommendation? Read with all the lights on.
Leonora (aka Lee, or Nora) is a writer by trade, living a reclusive life but happy life in London. After distancing herself from the toxic friendships of her childhood, Nora is content in her seclusion, and in the stability of her life. Then, an unexpected invitation arrives. Nora is being summoned to the bachelorette (hen) celebration for her childhood best friend, Clare. A train ride later, a very hesitant Nora finds herself trapped in a mansion in the middle of the woods, celebrating a former friend she hasn't spoken to in years. As tensions rise and circumstances grow strained, Nora begins to wonder if she will ever make it back to her happy life in London...
IN A DARK, DARK WOOD has been compared to Gillian Flynn's work, but to this reader, a more apt comparison can be made between Ruth Ware and Agatha Christie. Ware's addictive thriller exhibits all the characteristics of a classic Christie: unexpected invitation to an isolated location, the gathering together of an unlikely cast of characters, and proverbial breadcrumbs of information leading the reader deeper and deeper into a maze of deceit. Add in the amenities of 21st century life, a toxic friendship, and the pain of long-lost love, and you have yourself a masterful, and truly unique, piece of crime fiction.
One additional thought: Ware's exploration of toxic friendships elevated this novel for me, and left me thinking about the long-term effects of a really harmful friendship. Many of us have dealt with these friendships in one form or another; a friend who "chooses" you and makes you feel special, while also seriously undermining your self-worth and individuality. Ware's dramatization of this concept hits the nail on the head, and I consider it an unexpected bonus that this already totally entertaining read leaves us with some substantial food for thought.