I enjoyed Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 well enough but her debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, is a better novel. Both stories involve a somewhat unstable female narrator who is taken out of her comfort zone and thrust into a series of psychological mind fucks. While very few books in the “unreliable female protagonist” genre have hit the high bar Gone Girl set Ware comes closer than most with In a Dark, Dark Wood.
Nora is a crime writer with a passion for jogging who is invited to a former high school friend’s bachelorette party, despite not being invited to the wedding, which she reluctantly agrees to attend. The weekend is spent in the off season cabin of Flo’s, the maid of honor, aunt and doesn’t have basic amenities like WiFi or cell phone service. A trope Ware used in Cabin 10 too.
“People don’t change,” Nina said bitterly. “They just get more punctilious about hiding their true selves.”
Clare, the bride to be, admits to Nora that her fiance is Nora’s high school sweetheart and that’s why she hadn’t told her until now. Things get awkward the first night during a drinking game but the group persists at giving Clare the best “hen party” ever. This includes going to a shooting range the next morning.
The second night there is a strange sound outside the door and the group, high strung after a spin with a Ouiji board, believe they are about to be attacked. Shots are fired and Nora wakes up in the hospital where she overhears that someone was killed and the cops suspect it was murder, not an accident. Nora, who suffered a head injury, tries to piece together what happened before and after the shooting before the detectives do- especially if she is the killer!
The pacing, an integral part of any thriller, is fast paced with very little excess plot or red herrings. I’ll admit that figuring out who the killer was is pretty easy but the “why” was a bit of a surprise. I look forward to Ware’s next novel, The Lying Game, as well as the inevitable Hollywood treatment of this one (Reese Witherspoon, who adapted Big Little Lies wrote my edition’s front cover blurb).