Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key

""Ware is very good at creating atmosphere and tension. " "


When Rowan stumbles across the advert, it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a very generous salary. And when she arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious 'smart' home fitted out with all modern conveniences by a 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 her in cell awaiting trial for murder.

She knows she's made mistakes. But she's not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is…

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Ware's latest has obvious connotations with James' infamous ghost story, 'The Turn of the Screw', but for the 21st Century. Heatherbrae House is not a rambling shack, but a state-of-the-art installation envisaged by her new employers, Sandra and Bill Elincourt who are architects. An app wired in to the house controls temperature, opens the front door and even makes you coffee! There are also cameras so Sandra can remotely watch what is going on. So, what could go wrong in this idyllic setting? As it is so idyllic, why have there been so many nannies before Rowan? We know from the beginning that Rowan is writing from a prison cell, so something has happened to get her there. Ware is very good at creating atmosphere and tension, although I felt at times it was stretched too much and the momentum could sometimes suffer. I really did not feel that the many descriptions of the décor of Heatherbrae were entirely needed. The usual tropes are here with the boarded-up attic (isn't there always a spooky attic?) and the poison garden which ties in with the history of Heatherbrae which involved a mad doctor and a suspicious death. However, as with all fiction, there is a degree of the suspension of belief, but for me I felt that Ware asked a little too much of this reader. Would two architects convert a whole house and leave the attic boarded up? I wasn't convinced. I also felt the poison garden had huge potential, but was not fully explored. However, Ware more than makes up for this niggle with her final twist that does not tie all loose ends, but did make me think about Rowan's predicament long after the last page had been turned. At times there were glimmers of Barbara Vine here, and feel that with more books, Ruth Ware will definitely be a writer to watch.

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