Review: THE TURN OF THE KEY by Ruth Ware
Also by this author: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on August 6, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
THE TURN OF THE KEY Review
“Don’t come here…It’s not safe…The ghosts wouldn’t like it…”
As soon as I read that line, I knew that Ruth Ware’s latest novel, The Turn of the Key, was exactly the kind of creepy, spooky read I was looking for. The novel follows former nanny and current prison inmate, Rowan Caine. Rowan has been charged with murdering one of the children she was supposed to be taking care of and is in prison awaiting her trial. When the novel opens, we are presented with a letter she is writing to an attorney, in hopes of persuading him to take her case. The story of what has happened to land Rowan in prison then unfolds through the pages of her letter.
I loved the way Ware uses this letter to frame the entire story because it immediately sets Rowan up as an unreliable narrator. She’s desperately trying to plead her case to this attorney so of course she’s going to try to paint herself as innocently as possible. Rowan comes off as convincing overall though, describing several times throughout her letter how she was, at times, a flat-out terrible nanny. I found her flawed yet mostly believable so she captured my sympathy pretty easily and made me want to find out what really happened.
So, what really did happen? I don’t want to give anything away since this is a thriller so I’m just going to talk about the setup a bit, which I thought was fantastic. Rowan is job hunting and comes across an ad for a live-in nanny at a home in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. The salary is surprisingly high and everything about the job sounds perfect, almost too good to be true. Rowan interviews for the position and meets the children she’ll be taking care of and it’s one of the children who tells her “Don’t come here…It’s not safe…The ghosts wouldn’t like it…” While this doesn’t exactly give Rowan warm fuzzies, she takes the job anyway. And of course, in true thriller fashion, finds out almost immediately that it is, in fact, too good to be true and every nanny that has worked there before her has abruptly quit and moved out. The question is why and how do we get from that point all the way to the point where Rowan is in jail accused of murdering a child and all I’m going to say is that it’s a nightmare for Rowan and one heck of a ride for the reader!
What really hooked me on this story though is how atmospheric it is. Ware is a master of creating these creepy, sinister, almost Gothic settings and that’s the vibe that the house and its surrounding grounds have. There’s even a forbidden garden on the property that is filled with poisonous plants. The owners tell Rowan that it belonged to the previous owners, but for goodness sakes, as parents with small children, wouldn’t you think they would have that ripped up and removed for safety reasons? Needless to say, I was not a big fan of the parents in this book.
In an interesting twist, Ware cleverly offsets the creepy Gothic vibe of the house and grounds by making the house a “smart” house with all of the latest technological advances. The current owners are architects so it’s their “smart” design and they have the whole house set up and controlled by an app called Happy. Even when they’re out of town, the parents can pop in unannounced via speaker and they also have numerous cameras set up throughout the house so that they can see anything at any time. Imagine Alexa only creepier because of what it can do and how easy it is to invade someone’s privacy. It’s also pretty glitchy so unexpected things happen frequently, which gives Rowan the feeling that the house and Happy are out to get her as soon as the parents go out of town and she is left to fend for herself.
When things really start to go bump in the night is where Ware really excels in The Turn of the Key. She had me on the edge of my seat as Rowan is initially terrified by what she keeps hearing in the house and then ultimately furious about it and determined to get to the bottom of it. There are twists and turns galore and enough suspense that it had me reading late into the night and then imagining that I was hearing similar sounds in my own home. The pacing is perfect too, especially if you’re looking for a quick read. I devoured The Turn of the Key in just a couple of sittings.
This is the third novel I’ve read from Ruth Ware and while it wasn’t my favorite – that honor still goes to In a Dark, Dark Wood – it’s a very close second. If you’re in the mood for a creepy read with lots of twists and turns, Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key is a must-read!
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fifth novel.
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.
Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Oh yes, this does sound like one I would get into, Suzanne. I love your description of the gothic in it.
Sophia Rose recently posted…Sophia Rose Review: The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant
Thanks! Yeah, if you like creepy reads, this is a good one.
You’ve totally convinced me to read this! I have a copy but keep putting it aside to read other things.😁
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…THE HANGED MAN by K.D. Edwards – Review
Lol, I did the same thing for a couple of months but I’m glad I finally pulled it off the shelf.
I loved this one too! The atmosphere and the house kept me on edge! I have another book from her and I am hoping to get to it soon. Great review!
I’ve been enjoying her books so much. I can’t wait to go back and read the couple that I haven’t gotten to yet.
I can’t wait to listen to this! I’m definitely in the mood for a creepy read. Excellent review, Suzanne💜
Jonetta (Ejaygirl) | Blue Mood Café recently posted…Saturdays at the Café
Oh I bet the audio is super creepy. I hope you love it!
The parents in this one were definitely just the worst – from not ripping out that garden to just leaving their kids with a virtual stranger for over a week on her first day! They were nuts.
They really were awful, weren’t they? I couldn’t stand either of them.
Okay, your review certainly did put an awesome light on this one. And from the reviews, she certainly hit all the right notes of creeepy goodness!
verushka recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in my reading life
She really did. I know some of her books have had mixed reviews, but I think this one is going to be a hit with most readers who enjoy that style of creepy goodness.
I need to check to see if I have this because I love how it sounds, so interesting! Really curious how I’d feel about it.
Lily recently posted…Review Round Up #9
If you try it, I hope you enjoy it!
This would be my second fav of hers with first going to the same as yours. I think the audio definitely enhanced my enjoyment of this one.
Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer recently posted…All Fired Up by Lori Foster
I’ve heard good things about the audio so I’m glad to hear it was a winner for you too. 🙂
Even though I don’t often read mystery/thrillers, the sheer amount of rave reviews for this one has definitely caught my eye. And I love the way you describe it as being so atmospheric. That’s a big plus for me.
Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Contemporary Series
If you’re in the mood for a creepy read, this is one I’d highly recommend.
I heard about this book originally from The Book Spy, a suspense/thriller bogger, so I grabbed it from the library after being on the waiting list for quite some time, because it was just that popular. I can only say that Ware is a brilliant and riveting writer, and I stayed up late to finish it too. I bought this and her other books because I need to keep her books a my shelf as one of my new fave authors. Hugs, RO
RO recently posted…STUFF YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO KNOW
I’m so glad to hear this book was a winner for you too. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Ware so far.
I really enjoyed this one too. Loved the way she updated the Gothic with the house being creepy and modern instead of creepy and old! And the twist was really good!
Jen Ryland recently posted…Best Mugs for Book Lovers
I loved her modern take on creepy as well. It definitely fits with some people’s paranoia about all of the “smart” technology and AI stuff.
I love me some creepy gothic vibes to the books I am reading, and I have been recommended some of Ware’s mysteries! This one sounds the most suited to my personal tastes from your review so I think I am going to start with this one. I am excited!
Olivia Roach recently posted…Odell’s Fall [Book Review]
This one is really good and I also recommend In a Dark, Dark Wood. It’s also super creepy.