In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Apparently, someone says Twitter does not sell books. Well, I beg to disagree. I came to know of Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood as I have been in the past years: over Twitter. In fact, during the most recent of my trips to Wales, I pestered a lovely, very kind Waterstones Cardiff employee because I could not find that “new crime novel, about a wedding and a murder”. And this two months prior to the book’s publication so that you know how much I heard about it, and how eager I was to read it. It was also Twitter who gave me the title, since I had forgotten it. It is bookish Twitter appreciation day, it seems, so thank you to everyone – and especially to the publisher for sending me a review copy – for making it possible for me to read In a Dark, Dark Wood.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Someone’s Getting Married

Someone’s Getting Murdered

Nora has no seen her childhood friend Clare in a decade when a mysterious email invites her to Clare’s hen… and not to her wedding. A successful crime fiction writer, and totally independent at the age of twenty-six, Nora dwells for day whether to accept the invitation or not. She finally does, but why does Clare want to reconnect with Nora? And why would anyone organise a hen in a luxury house in the middle of the Northern woods?

The premise for In a Dark, Dark Wood is one only a few crime fiction readers would not feel attracted to, and the book’s tag line is good enough to attract those who would not be so sure, for a wedding and a murder are two events that hardly go together. As readers, we are given quite a lot of information about the story: what is happening, where, the fact that someone will die. But we are not answered the three most crucial questions in crime fiction: Who? by Whom? and Why?

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the perfect exercise on crime fiction and women’s representation. All but one of the main characters are women, and what is more traditionally feminine than a hen party? Ware makes a huge effort to deconstruct the meaning of these parties, and weddings in general, from Nora’s point of view as an outsider. Why invite someone to your hen but not to your wedding? What is expected of the bride and her friends during the event? Why is a luxury house in the woods not the right place to throw a hen party? All the complex, and traditional social constructions that come with these rites of passage are laid bare by Nora’s first person narration.

However, I had one big issue with the book, and that is that I saw the end coming. This is not a bad thing per se, as it is quite a usual problem with readers of crime fiction. I enjoyed the rest of the book once I figured out what was going on, and I do not really thing it takes away from the reading, more than knowing a dog barks when an unknown person approaches, as Sherlock would put it.

So, In a Dark, Dark Wood was the addictive, thrilling, and women-led crime novel that the buzz promised, and I know I will read more of Ware’s works in the future, were she to keep publishing – which I really hope she does.

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