The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

This book belongs in a special category here on Paul’s Picks… it is a rare one-day read. I was obsessed with this one. A scorcher of a slow burn that took me back to its pages in 5 sittings. I just had to finish.

Ware has a unique way of depositing her characters alone in an unfamiliar place. An expensive yacht in The Woman in Cabin 10, a family’s manor house in The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and in this novel, an ultra-modernized country estate in the Scottish Highlands. Rowan Caine travels to Heatherbrae House to interview for a nanny position. She finds a couple, Sandra and Bill Elincourt, who is trying to do it all: raise a modern family and run a successful architecture firm. They need help… while they are trying to work and while they are away at their projects and conventions. Rowan thinks her resume and a good interview will get her the position, along with the staggeringly high salary. But certain information is left out of the process… namely, the Elincourts will be leaving in two days, the newly-remodeled smart home has a history of eerie ‘coincidences,’ and one of the middle children is especially difficult.

Rowan rolls up her sleeves and gets to work trying to acclimatize herself to the daily routine (as described in the 150-page binder Sandy leaves her). She battles with the SmartHome’s tablet and its many intrusive cameras, and gets to know the attractive driver/ handyman/ gardener, Jack. She also has a creepy run-in with Bill.. But, she suffers through the creaks of the house at night and the girls taking her into the historic poison garden on the grounds. Things slowly get more serious as Rowan feels her control over the situation start to slip…

The story is told as a letter of desperation asking for a lawyer’s help as Rowan awaits trial after the death of one of the children. She is stuck in a women’s prison in Scotland several months after the crime that she claims she is innocent of. It’s a clever way of setting up the plot, a confession of sorts that really allows Rowan to tell her version of the story. Themes of family secrets and all-consuming surveillance make for a creepy tension-filled plot. Ware is one of the best at waiting at the right moment to drop a great twist. I found myself reading several passages over and over to make sure that got the big reveals while thinking, “Did that just happen!?!?!”

The Turn of the Key is another winner for Ware. If you liked her first books, then this will be perfect for you. And if you are new to her writing, pick this up for a superb weekend read.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery Press, and Ruth Ware for an advanced copy for review.

9 thoughts on “The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

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  1. I’ve been curious about Ruth Ware. People seem to love her stuff. I’ve hesitated because I wasn’t sure if it was more mystery or thriller (I’m not as interested in mystery as I am in thriller, weirdly). Is there one that’s better to start with than others?

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