Book Title and Author: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Publication Date and Publisher: August 6, 2019 by Gallery Book
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Suspense, Gothic
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: July 24, 2019 (e-arc)
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 unraveling 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.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway was one of my favorite novels last year and The Turn of The Key one of my most anticipated reads this year. After reading both, I undoubtedly believe Ruth Ware has found her niche within gothic suspense and in her latest novel, she’s perfectly taken one of the greatest gothic whodunits of all time (and one of my favorite books ever), Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, and reimagined it into a modernized, eerie mystery that is just as subtle and sinister.
Only in Ware’s book there’s no unnamed governess telling the story of unruly charges and envisioned “ghosts” through her written manuscript but instead a woman named Rowan Caine, a young nanny, explaining her story completely in a letter written to the solicitor she hopes will take her case as she waits in prison charged with the murder of one of the children in her care. Only Ware could have pulled off channeling such a masterpiece as The Turn of the Screw but she’s an expert at crafting an ominous, atmospheric setting, haunting darkness, enduring eeriness, the paranormal, an unreliable narrator, and other gothic aspects.
The Elincourt family with their four young daughters and the four nannies who have left under mysteries circumstances certainly would have set me running for the hills, but Rowan is determined to take on the job not only because the money is phenomenal but as readers, we just don’t know what her motives are at first, and I admit that I didn’t have a clue when they were revealed, so what a shock! Even when Rowan is warned that “the ghosts won’t like it” (eek, I would have run far away), she comes back to Heatherbrae House, a technologically advanced house that puts Alexa to shame. Everything in the house is run on technology-the lights, locks, appliances, showers, ordering groceries, and cameras monitoring your every move…
Heatherbrae House, the setting for the novel, is indeed atmospheric as it’s located in the remote Scottish moors and I could just picture ghosts and specters haunting the redone Victorian country mansion just like it’s rumored to be. As soon as Rowen is settled in and is left alone with the girls her first day (!), strange things immediately begin to happen. Is it Happy, the name of the house’s technology gone glitchy? Or is something sinister and ghostly afoot? What happened to the other nannies to make them leave? And why is there a poison garden on the grounds?
The novel is full of seething suspense and as Rowen tells her story in her letters, you can feel her terror and tension escalate until the final night when she tells of the events leading to the death of the child. She still maintains her innocence but someone died, so who is to blame?
As always, Ware weaves a deliciously horrifying tale that kept me riveted to the end. My only complaint is that the ending, the last 20%, was a bit rushed and wrapped things up a bit too loosely. I would have liked more answers and less uncertainty in the ending. Yet, it’s Ware, so I loved it and wholeheartedly recommend it!
**Thank you NetGalley and Gallery Books for the ARC. All opinions are my own.**