IN A DARK, DARK WOOD Review

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

Synopsis: 
Mystery novelist Leonora—known as Nora and Lee, depending on whom she’s speaking with—lives a solitary but comfortable life in London based around a predictable routine: coffee, run, shower, write, repeat. She’s checking email one day when she comes across an invitation to a hen weekend for Clare Cavendish, a friend from childhood whom she hasn’t spoken to or seen for a decade. After some urging by a mutual friend, Nora (Lee?) reluctantly decides to go, and finds herself at a mysterious house with a group of near-strangers, deep in the forest far from the city.

Quickly, old rivalries and new relationships bubble to the surface and the weekend turns darkly violent, leaving Nora (Lee?) battered and bruised in a hospital bed. As she struggles to reconstruct the sequence of events that brought her there, secrets emerge about her past and her present that force her to question everything she knows about herself and everyone she’s ever loved. 

 

*****

 

Christ, I hated this book.

 

I can usually find the silver lining in life. I try to remain positive, even if things look bleak. I've discovered negativity does not really help much. I carry this line of thinking into book reviews, hence the fact that it's rare when I give a rating that is lower than three stars. I am usually good at finding something to like about any given book . . . but not this one.

 

Sheesh, this book was bloody awful. 

 

Granted, this is Ruth Ware's debut novel and it is not fair to expect any writer's first book to be perfect, but . . . c'mon. Would it hurt to give us a little nuance? A little mystery? A single, solitary line of dialogue that does not sound forced; a stray thought or characterization that is not so tired and boring that I would rather watch paint dry by comparison? 

 

So, essentially, this is about a bachelorette party from hell. Er . . . to remedy: It's about a bachelorette party from Ruth Ware's very tame idea of Hell. Someone gets murdered! Oooooooh! Scary, right? Too bad it's a character the reader doesn't even meet or give two shits about. Seriously. Not spoiling who it is, but the person who gets murdered is a character that sort of comes out of nowhere, gets his (or her) self killed via gunshot . . . and that's it. I couldn't make myself care because Ware gives the reader no reason to care. We have no prior knowledge of this character except from some of the flashbacks the extremely irrational and dim-witted (seriously, this girl is supposed to be a writer? Seriously?) narrator/protagonist has. 

 

Like the main character, the other characters are poorly written. Every stereotype is covered -- the sassy, strong lesbian; the catty gay guy; the psychotic best friend; the spoiled princess. It's all so mind-numbingly boring because this has all been done before. Ware brings literally nothing new to the table. The characters are so vanilla, so hackneyed . . . It was a chore to read about any of them. 

 

This review is all over the place, but so is the book. Ware tries so hard to make her characters original and fresh and her story groundbreaking and breath-taking that it just falls on its face. It's not a good mystery (I figured out who the killer was . . . oh, about 75 pages in); it's not a good character study . . . it's just bad. 

 

In conclusion: Check out Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None instead.