In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware (2015)

In a Dark Dark WoodNora Shaw is a crime writer in London, living alone in a tiny flat and liking it that way since she fled from Reading 10 years ago. Her best friend at the time was Clare Cavendish, and it’s Clare’s current BFF who emails Nora out of the blue to invite her to Clare’s hen do (Brit-speak for a bachelorette party), though Nora has received no wedding invitation. Nora discovers her friend Nina is invited to both, and in a moment of bravado Nora decides to attend the weekend hen-do with Nina. All of this is revealed in a series of flashbacks as Nora wakes up in a hospital and hears the nurse talk of death and murder. Nora doesn’t know who is dead, her memory is full of gaps, and she has no idea of the level of her own involvement. This is a modern telling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, complete with a roomful of potential suspects, dreadful weather, and power outages. The clues are slowly revealed as Nora’s memory returns in a convenient chronological sequence, and the evildoer isn’t too hard for an experienced mystery reader to identify. Typical of British literature, the emphasis is on characters rather than plot, to the story’s detriment, I think. I like character-driven stories, but this plotline is truly silly, from victim to motive to Nora’s idiotic decisions from start to end. The characters were well-developed but unlikeable – all six of them are annoying, whiny and self-focused twenty-somethings with little empathy for others unless it’s to their advantage. Even the house was unfriendly. Sheesh. The storyline plodded along until about the last fifty pages when it picked up some speed and was more fun to read, though admittedly predictable. This is Ware’s first novel; I do hope she keeps at it. I finished the book and enjoyed some of it; a few more drafts and critical assessments could have led to a beautifully creepy story worthy of the title. My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reading copy.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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