Friday, October 13, 2017

Fiction Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

I am really enjoying the R.I.P. Challenge this fall, as I do every year! It gives me a chance to finally get to some of the suspense, mystery, and thriller novels I used to read exclusively that now seem to pile up. For Father’s Day this summer, I gave my husband In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, a novel recommended by (and purchased at) Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, where I attended Booktopia in May. He enjoyed this creepy thriller, and so did I!

The novel starts with a bang, with the main character, Nora, waking up injured in a hospital room after a frantic run through a dark and snowy woods that she barely remembers. She knows that something horrible has happened, but what?

The action then moves back to a couple of weeks earlier. Nora wakes up in her small apartment and heads out for a 9-mile run through the park on a beautiful November day. When she returns, she finds a new e-mail from a stranger, inviting her to a hen party for an old friend, Clare, whom she hasn’t seen or talked to in ten years. (Note that a “hen party” is a British tradition, sort of like what we might call a bachelorette party in the U.S., though it seems to be a more deeply ingrained and varied tradition there). Mystified as to why she was invited, Nora e-mails another old friend, Nina, (whom she has kept in touch with) whose name was also on the invitation. The two decide to attend together, though Nora still has some serious doubts.

Exactly what happened between Nora and Claire ten years ago remains a mystery for much of the book, but it is clear that it was very upsetting to Nora, causing her to break off all contact. Nora and Nina arrive at the hen party (which is actually an entire hen weekend), being held in an unusual house, secluded in the woods, that is mostly made of glass. Their very exuberant host, Flo, explains that she is Claire’s best friend and the house belongs to her aunt. Other attendees include Melanie, a new mom who is away from her baby for the first time, and Tom, a fashionable gay man who loves a good party.

Claire finally arrives, making Nora feel even more nervous and claustrophobic than she already is. Nora deals with the stress all weekend by going running through the surrounding woods. The narrative moves back and forth from the hen weekend to Nora in the hospital, in pain, remembering blood, and watching the police officer on duty outside her room, so you know from the start that something goes terribly wrong that weekend. One of the first things Nora remembers is that it all had something to do with the shotgun hanging on the wall over the fireplace in the glass house.

This novel is all about suspense. You know from the start that something goes wrong, so much of the suspense comes from wondering what happened, but Ware also creates a creepy, dark tone with the setting. That glass house feels to Nora like they are all on stage, surrounded by the dark woods, not able to see out but on display. She sees signs that perhaps they are not alone. As you read and get to know each character, you wonder if one of them could be the one who goes crazy and pulls out the shotgun? Or was it someone else? It’s a delightfully creepy journey filled with taut tension that kept me turning the pages late into the night. Apparently, Reese Witherspoon agrees because she is making the novel into a movie! I can’t wait.

308 pages, Scout Press

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself. My review is my own opinion.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


 Or purchase from Northshire Bookstore in VT:



  1. Hi Sue, hope you have been doing well.

    Read this Ruth Ware book a while back and thought it was pretty good. Her latest book, Liar's Club, was just okay IMO.

    1. Glad you liked it, too, Diane. I have The Woman in Cabin 10 waiting on the shelf, too. Good to hear your thoughts on Liar's club - we haven;t bought that one yet.

  2. This one sounds kind of scary. I don't know that I can add more scary to my life right now as Criminal Minds is really creeping me out tonight!

    1. Not so much outright scary, as a pervading sense of creepiness and impending doom! Sounds like you are still totally immersed in Criminal Minds! Enjoy!