What would it be like to be accused of a murder, but you can’t remember it? Ruth Ware envisions the perfect setting for a novel to unfold this mystery. With the right characters, the right pace and the right focus on the whodunit nature of the novel, it is possible to be standing in front of a highly entertaining psychological thriller that will keep you on the tip of your feet from cover to cover. In a Dark, Dark Wood is a tale that wishes to stress its reader till the very last page, and as much as possible. Focusing on building the right amount of tension before unleashing the beast, this novel has its ways to immerse you in a well-written story and keep you page-flipping till the end. A routine life is all that’s needed for things to go downhill from there. And it’s when Nora, our main protagonist, receives an invitation for a hen do for a friend she has not seen for over 10 years that things are set into motion. With big question marks floating around her head, Nora accepts to go on an adventure that she is likely never to forget.
The novel enjoys going at a slow pace in order to properly put forth every chess piece necessary for the game to take place. Complimented by great writing, the novel can easily immerse you into its premise and have you craving for the big events. I have never felt such an unconscious urge to keep on reading through the protagonist’s thoughts and seeking the secrets that the characters hide from each other than in this book. Unfortunately, even though the novel was able to brilliantly keep me hooked to the story, it takes more than half the novel before the action kicked in. By dragging out the introduction and the setup, before the main thrill, a lot of details in character and plot was given. And it’s by dragging it for so long that the ending of this novel was a lot more predictable than it might have intended to be. I, however, was still able to appreciate some of the plot twists that were delivered since I felt like the pacing was intriguingly original and unique.
Ruth Ware also utilizes two storylines (a future and a present one) to create a supplementary level of suspense to the novel. There’s nothing like a double dose of suspense to keep things going. In all honesty, the future sequences were at first quickly diluted by the present storyline, but managed to keep a certain level of intrigue later on, as both time lines coincide and come into one. Having the story told in first person, through the eyes of Nora, also added an interesting facet to the novel since her thoughts were always presented. It did sometimes become too analytical for my taste, as she always second-guessed her decisions, her actions or what she said. However, this could also be seen as something that’s integral to the character and her personality. In fact, I found that her desire to leave the past behind and run from anything that could remotely increase her heart rate was quite fascinating. Having a character that lived in the past definitely helped add a certain level of mystery. To top it off, the motives of every character is often ambiguous, since most of them don’t know much of each other.
Ruth Ware’s novel is a psychological novel that will have readers wishing for more. Her writing absolutely shows that she is an author with amazing potential. Although a lot of people claim this novel to scary—I mean, scary scary—I have to disagree. It was definitely not a novel that spooked me in any way possible. Even when things started to heat up, it wasn’t even close to making me drop the book and hide. In fact, I felt the novel was captivating and thrilling, at times. Most of the big moments can be counted on one hand, but the author preferred to dive into the core of these moments and try to make every instant as important as possible. In a Dark, Dark Wood is a psychological thriller that can definitely please some fans of the genre. It uses some recurrent strategies in thrillers to convey its story, especially when it comes down to the personality of the characters, the use of amnesia and the presence of flashforwards. Nonetheless, this is a novel that can entertain a lot of readers who’d like a new debut by a new author for the whodunit universe.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending us an advance copy for review and for hosting the Summer Fiction Blog Tour!
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