⇒“I know you don’t know me but you have to help me. I didn’t kill anyone.” -The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware ⇐
Author: Ruth Ware
(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery
Publication Date: August 6, 2019, by Gallery/Scout Press (Simon Schuster Audio)
Pages: 337 (Hardcover)
People do go mad, you know, if you stop them from sleeping for long enough…
Have you ever gone to a wedding reception, looked over, and marveled at a beautiful, intricately designed, smooth surfaced wedding cake? You know that bakers use fondant to create those ultra-smooth surfaces. Fondant gives cakes a designer look – it says, I am the best of the best. You add a lot when you add fondant to a cake: details, decoration, … cost. Where and I going with this? Let’s read the blurb and I’ll tell you why this book reminds me of fondant…
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.
The ghosts wouldn’t like it.
OK, so what does a thriller/mystery have to do with cake icing? Well, fondant cakes are gorgeous, but fondant itself is disgusting. It tastes like sugar glued to plastic. And sometimes it makes the entire piece of cake inedible. Although you eagerly anticipate getting a slice of that beautiful cake, in the end there is only disappointment.
There is a lot to unpack in this book, but only because so much was added to make you think you are getting a great ghost story/psych thriller layered with deception and danger. But in the end, all of that is just a plate full of inedible fondant, and it is disappointing.
Piece by piece, I was being torn apart.
Adapted from Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, this book ebbs and flows through the spooky supernatural and the naughty natural to present a tangled mess of a novel with an ambiguous ending that ties readers in knots. Normally a raw finish wouldn’t necessarily be a negative – especially with psych thrillers – but this one had SO many ups and downs throughout, readers deserved a more solid conclusion.
If Ware was attempting to emulate James with her “what the heck happened?” ending, it fell flat. Instead of feeling like a true mystery worthy of reflection, it felt unfinished with a thousand questions unanswered.
I struggled with this review at first – I like Ruth Ware and I never want to give any hard-working author a negative review. But I also understand that I can’t always only post reviews for books I like. So, I’ll embrace this two-star rating today and hope for better next week. I mean, what do I know – you may just like the potty-mouth nanny and the Elincourt’s poisonous progeny. I won’t judge.
However, if you’re looking for a haunted manor/spooked-out governess story, my advice is to stick with the original and read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE TURN OF THE KEY HERE
Check out Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key web page for some extras that are actually more interesting than the book!
Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her debut thriller. -bio from Goodreads