Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. I’ve had this on my shelf for quite some time but figured it was time to ‘get reading’. By reading, I mean I bought the audiobook and listened on my daily lockdown walks. I mean, a Scottish set psychological thriller come gothic noir – what’s not to like right? Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
When Rowan comes across the advert, it seems too good to be true: a live-in nanny position, with an extremely generous salary.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with her in a cell awaiting trial for murder.
She knows she’s made mistakes.
But she’s not guilty – at least not of murder.
Which means someone else is…
So I had only read one other Ruth Ware book before delving into this, her previous psychological thriller , The Death of Mrs Westaway, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Going into this book I had an inkling of what I might find and was really looking forward to it. What I found was a book that was permeated with slowly growing unease, unexplained chills and a narrator who was somewhere between likeable and unreliable and I am still not entirely sure which side of the fence I am on with regards to that one.
The book is told from the perspective of Rowan, the main protagonist of the tale, who is on remand, accused of the murder of a young girl. What we do not know at this stage are the whats, whys and wherefores and this is the crux of the novel, as she tries to engage with a Barrister to work on her behalf, explaining to him the full details of what happened that fateful summer and how one of the children entrusted to her in her role as live in Nanny met such a tragic end. The author has done a brilliant job of creating that urgent, pleading and yet conversational tone of someone who really doesn’t understand how to put her feelings across. It brought me on side as a reader/listener very quickly and kept me engaged in the story, it also worked perfectly as a narrative style for the audio book. It’s one of those where I wonder if I would have been so absorbed if I had been reading the text rather than listening to it. The narrator in this case, Imogen Church, certainly did a fantastic job of making Rowan’s anxiety and fear palpable and her frustrations and secrecy feel very authentic.
There was something really skin crawling about this book at times. Possibly the remote HIghland setting, the close community of the small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. Certainly the house itself, some strange hybrid of the old and the new sets the nerves on edge. That whole idea of the traditional old house with it’s creaking stairs and draughts is starkly contrasted against all the overbearing technology that the family has installed – cameras, smart devices, hidden control panels for the appliances. Even the curtains open and close on demand. The author made it almost feel as though each design was an affront to the house, never mind Rowan. Each aspect of the house is designed and describer to add to the atmosphere of the novel, an unusual kind of gothic mansion with cyber control overtones that would just freak me out if I had to live there, although the idea of waking up to a view of the Cairngorms everyday, and the relative isolation does appeal. But this is a house with a dark history, very dark. So how much does that play into the events that occur? Well – read or listen to find out.
And there there are the characters. Rowan is a strong young woman and yet very flawed. It is clear from early on that she is keeping secrets, ones that are slowly revealed to the reader. And yet she is likeable and ultimately I did want to see her come good. There was something about her, something that made me believe in her innocence very quickly, possibly the unsettling nature of the house, or even the absentee parents who were more engaged in business than being home. The children themselves bore all the hallmarks of children who just wanted to be loved, just wanted attention, and yet they also had the ability to creep you out, especially Maddie, a quiet and obstinate child who resists every attempt of Rowan to engage with her.
I’ll admit that at times this book put me in mind of the film, The Skeleton Key, and that almost dictated the way in which I expected the story to go. It certainly held many mysteries and was high ins suspense and chilling undertones. All the essential ingredients for a classic gothic suspense, and it worked really well. I can’t deny that I called some of the key revelations very early on in the story and yet there were still many more surprises to come leading to a very satisfying and smile worthy ending. Smile in the ‘nice touch’ sense rather than ‘they all lived happily ever after’ kind of way. Definitely recommended for fans of the author and I’d certainly recommend the audiobook version as the narrator is great.
About the Author
Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway and The Turn of the Key have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. Her books have been optioned for TV and film and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.