Book Review : The Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key (Amazon Link)

Author : Ruth Ware
Published By : Simon & Schuster
Year Published : 2019
Genre / Tags : Mystery, Thriller, Light Horror, Contemporary, Gothic
Mood : Atmospheric, spooky, quietly building tension.
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 384 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

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.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

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.

Wow I actually made a mood board for once! I find these hard to make since I can never find the right pics or think of any pics to search for. This book conjures some memorable and interesting images. By no means do all these perfectly match the book descriptions but I hope it’s nice to look at anyway.

Review

The Good

This novel reads like a lengthier successor to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I had some issues with The Haunting Of Hill House when I first read it but looking back months later, I better appreciate how influential and clever it is. The Turn Of The Key seems inspired by many of its best ideas, but expands upon them with a higher page count and more in-depth detail of the enigmatic house itself. The sort of shifting from day to night is also present, with night scenes containing more palpable tension.

Spooky old house, spooky kids, spooky.. garden? I like spooky/creepy imagery in books. Though a contemporary, this has a rich gothic style and atmosphere that is a bit unusual to find. I think one could even categorize this title as horror, it is close enough in a sort of quiet and classical way. Every element is at least a bit off, lending a slowly-building and sinister atmosphere. Something is also not right with the kids the main character, Rowan, is looking after. Even the garden has secrets.

The house and its very modern “smart” features cleverly deepen the suspense. Also perfect for lending some horror and mystery to the mix. The house seems massive and is described almost as if it’s a living, shifting entity brimming with secrets to explore. I’ve come across very few works that aim for such an effect and it’s always great to see.

Then we get to the technological features- lights can be turning on and off via voice control. Doors can be opened or closed via app. Camera surveillance and audio monitoring of various rooms is also a thing that Rowen is in charge of. When things go expectedly awry within that house, a lot of strange things can happen. I was never 100% sure how many zany and entrapping possibilities there were in this slightly futuristic house.

Multiple mysteries, the main character being one of them. I’m a fan of unreliable narraters. Also a fan of ambiguity. This book has both. I wasn’t sure if Rowan is unreliable or true and accurate in all of her sometimes neurotic-seeming thoughts.

The Not-So-Good

There was no character that I adored. This is not a requirement or anything, but it’s always nice to have at least one that stands out as special. Jack comes close, for his constant willingness to help Rowan. She has a prickly relationship with the kids and I really wish more time had been spent having them bond and converse more meaningfully. If you’re looking for an emphasis on deep character interactions, that’s not the focus of this novel.

Things can be slow. The first 25% of the book was about Rowan leaving her job, going to the house, getting a tour of said house, meeting a couple people, and finishing her job interview. It seemed like a small amount of ground covered for what is a considerable chunk of pages. But I did like how extensively the house is detailed.

Some other details I’d like to cover..

The nitty gritty details of being a nanny. I didn’t have much of a problem with this aspect as I was a little curious about the ins and outs of it, but some stretches of minutiae related to Rowan’s duties as a nanny can be less interesting. Your mileage may vary on this matter.

The best moment. In typical haunted house fashion, there is a mysterious locked door that takes forever to get opened. When Rowen is finally making real strides toward getting that door open, it’s really exciting and unputdownable.

Some totally non-spoiler thoughts about the ending. So around the 25% mark, 50% mark, even 70%+ mark I was thinking to myself how the ending could make or break this work. There was so much build up and it seems inherent to thrillers/mysteries that the ending and all the big reveals are of exceeding importance. I’m happy to say that I was mostly pleased with the revelations. I don’t over analyze too hard when reading books of this nature, but I don’t think the twists are by any means guessable.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – Heavy atmosphere, a spooky house that is a mix of old gothic imagery and almost futuristic modern conveniences. There is an array of plot twists. The writing is also quite solid.

Why You Might Not Like It – Can be slow-moving. The characters are not very endearing.

*Many thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me this advance reader’s copy for review.*

The Turn of the Key (Amazon Link)

Have you read this book or are interested in reading it? Please feel free to share your thoughts, I read and appreciate all your comments and likes.

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24 comments

  1. You have me sold on this one. I kept meaning to get to her other book but man……the stacks around this house are out of control so I had to turn the book back into he library.
    I love the idea of a spooky house and multiple mysteries . The nanny focus sounds good, I recently win a book titled The Nanny.
    Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Review Here. I read this nearly 400 page book in about a day and a half and definitely didn’t feel like I was rushing through. It just flowed. What’s funny is that I wouldn’t call Ware’s writing fast-paced. Of anything, her style lingers on details and there are plentiful descriptive moments or slow moments. The fact that it still flowed like water and I enjoyed every second without any dulling of momentum? That made this a noteworthy reading experience. […]

    Like

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