Book review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Title: The Turn of the Key

Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Vintage

Publication date: 8th August 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


“When she stumbles across the advert, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan 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 her in a cell awaiting trial for murder.

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

My review:

Rowan doesn’t know what to expect on her first day at Heatherbrae House. The job ad seemed perfect and she is already experienced at taking care of young children. The idyllic family home is located in rural Scotland and features contrasting state of the art smart home characteristics which baffle her. When she finds signs from the children and past nannies that the house is not what it seems to be and advice to get out while she still can, Rowan wonders if she perhaps made the wrong choice in coming here after all.

The premise of The Turn of the Key presents a variety of opportunities for suspense and tension and Ruth Ware takes advantage of these possibilities, creating a plot thick with ever increasing tension. The letter format is original and matches the atmosphere well. I am also pleased that the author chose to write the book in first person narrative as there were several uneasy moments where this style perfectly reflected the mood.

Although I had my doubts about Rowan at first as she seemed an unreliable character, as more bizarre events occurred I soon took her side and eventually warmed to her. The letter format help to present her as an innocent and sincere person who seemed to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of her decisions aggravated me and there were many missed moments where she didn’t take the lead which made her appear weak and passive. The other minor characters, especially the children, were presented as indifferent to the strange events happening at the house which ultimately made me believe that the whole mystery was somehow linked to Rowan.

I was completely invested in The Turn of the Key until the very end which felt very anticlimactic and rushed. There were many red herrings throughout the book and I thought that at least one of them could have explained the creepy events but the big twist let me down and felt too unbelievable.

An original format and first person narrative makes The Turn of the Key easily digestible and a quick read for anyone looking for a straightforward thriller. Although the ending was ineffective, the build up and suspense was authentic and merits praise.

24 thoughts on “Book review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

  1. A very thoughtful and well-written review, Darina. A shame about the ending, but the first person narrative does make it seem compelling and unpredictable. I will read this one eventually, but am hoping to get through Ruth Ware’s books in chronological order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to hear that! I haven’t read In a Dark Dark Wood but maybe try this one? I reckon if you like the beginning of it you may enjoy it as the pace and style is the same throughout. I found it pretty good although not amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You write the most thoughtful and well-balanced reviews, Darina! I haven’t read this one but it’s good to know the ending doesn’t work well because I’m pretty sure I have it on my shelf. I’ve not clicked well with her books, though I want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Jennifer! ❤ I'm sorry to hear that but I would guess that if you didn't like other books by her then maybe this one won't be for you. It's always good to try though as you may end up liking it!


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