4 star, adult

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Image result for the turn of the keyWhen Rowan Caine stumbles across an ad for a live-in nanny post with a staggeringly generous salary, it seems like too good an opportunity to miss. And when she 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 the picture-perfect family who lives there.

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 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 her up with booming music in the middle of the night and 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 model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no other adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

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

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Turn of the Key begins from the perspective of our protagonist, Rowan Caine, from a jail cell struggling to write to her lawyer about the events that transpired at the Heatherbrae House. Immediately we are thrown into a gloomy and suspenseful environment where the ending is all but certain. Even though we already know that our protagonist ends up behind bars, the whole suspense in this thriller novel is still kept up until the very end. Knowing how the story will end somehow makes the dread all the more suspenseful as we follow her through Heatherbrae House, fully aware that all is not as it seems, and behind every corner lurks yet another family secret.

This mystery follows the life of Rowan Caine (in the past), who takes up a new nannying job at Heatherbrae House, way out in Scotland. She sees the ad for a very generous salary, and quickly takes the interview for a chance at a new life. There, she meets the Elincourt family, living in their modern day fairytale dream of paramount technology, mixed in seamlessly with their ancient house and land. Though she receives some warning signs, she quickly brushes them off, confident that she can outlast the previous nannies and enjoy a comfortable life.

However, very quickly many things seem to go wrong. The house is mostly controlled by an app called Happy, which allows wireless and also voice control of many of the house’s appliances and amenities. While this is initially a delightful experience, Rowan quickly discovers that someone else seems to have more control than her over the house, even though she is the only adult there. Seemingly many “malfunctions” and mysterious events start happening, which Rowan is determined to stick through for the money, despite her growing anxiety.

Ware carefully builds each character in a way that makes them each simultaneously friendly yet also suspicious. Even the less likeable characters have their redeeming qualities, making it ever so difficult to guess who is really friend or foe. This builds up Rowan’s (and in turn ours) anxiety as the number of people she can trust dwindles, and the number of shady characters increases. So many inexplicable things happen to her while she is at Heatherbrae House, and it truly becomes her unending nightmare.

The whole novel has a very suspenseful feel to it, and even with some of the ending given away at the beginning, it is still impossible to tell for sure who is responsible during her journey there. Ware has even hidden one last crucial secret to be revealed at the climax of the story, which really brings all the carefully placed icicles of mystery come crashing down around Rowan. Once again, Ware has created an incredibly thrilling story with elements that will truly chill you to the bone.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into the heavy psychological thriller type of story (like I am), you will definitely enjoy this novel. Ware has quickly become one of my favourite modern authors of such mysteries, as each story is so well written and really keeps me in suspense no matter how much I get used to her plots. Although the ending is not necessarily the ending I wanted to see, the whole journey was definitely a delightful(ly scary) experience, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys all the twists and turns of a psychological thriller!

4 star, adult

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Image result for the witch elm

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.



4 Drink Me Potions


‘I’ve always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person.’

Going into this book, I had expected some sort of existential, philosophical discovery kind of journey, but that is really not what I got. Instead, it was a murder mystery sort of novel (my favourite!) with a large twist. In The Witch Elm, Toby is a well-rounded, generally deemed good person, who suffers a life-changing event and is seemingly never the same after. Struggling with his head injury, Toby rapidly finds himself in a state of constant confusion, with muddled memories adding to his paranoia.

Having escaped to the Ivy House for refuge with his dying uncle, things quickly turn around when a skull is discovered inside a large elm tree in the garden. Again Toby’s life is plunged into mystery, with detectives and police at every corner. Who around him can he trust, when he can’t even trust his own memories and character?

The Witch Elm follows the main protagonist, Toby, who starts off high and mighty (though not too haughty) but quickly falls to rock bottom. Even we ourselves as readers are not sure if we can trust Toby with his disjointed memories. This made for a very interesting read as usually a whodunnit novel doesn’t involve yourself as a prime suspect. Everyone appears suspicious, but we also can’t rule out ourselves as a possible suspect either, making this story an exciting journey from the beginning all the way to the dramatic climax and denouement.

I really enjoyed that this book explored a lot of aspects of identity and self-awareness. How much does who you are as a character really play into your actions? Also, how strongly do people judge your actions by how closely it matches your perceived character? There is a very interesting exploration of this whole reality versus perception of character and actions that is a motif found throughout the whole book.

The beginning did start off a little bit slow for me, and the lucky nature of Toby was a little bit irritating. But as I got to about half-way through the book, I actually found myself really entranced in the whole scenario, not unlike how Toby must have been feeling in the book himself. Each persona in the book was well thought out and developed in such a way that even though everyone’s character was clear as day, it was difficult to pin down any incriminating evidence. Just when you think that things are about to be resolved, things take another tumble and whirl around until the very final resolution. It was definitely an exciting roller coaster of a journey that was gripping all the way to the very end.

Overall Recommendation:
A haunting story of rediscovering yourself on the backdrop of a murder mystery. Toby is a classically lucky guy up until he slides right to the very bottom. The story follows him as he struggles to remember what might or might not have been, and who he can trust when a human skull is found in his garden. The Witch Elm is a gripping tale that explores how the perceived reality versus the actual truth might differ. What we discover about our true selves might sometimes be better left unknown. If you enjoy a thrilling murder mystery where literally everyone is a suspect, you will probably enjoy this book. If you like that idea with the addition of a self-(re)discovery journey layered on top, then I would definitely recommend this book.