My faithful readers will know all too well how much I love a Ruth Ware book. I’ve had my minor complaints about them over the years, but it’s never enough to put me off reading her. I still get excited each and every time I hear she’s written another, and thank god she’s productive because we’ve got the fifth release from her to now enjoy: The Turn of the Key.
For those of you who enjoyed her last book, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ware has returned to the gothic setting in an equally creepy story about a young woman named Rowan Caine, fresh into her nanny position for the Elincourts, a wealthy family living in a secluded and upscale ‘smart home’ in the Scottish highlands. The job seems ideal at the outset (don’t they all?), as the pay is outrageously good, her room and bathroom are gorgeous and the children seem tolerable, not to mention the attractive groundskeeper and handyman Jack are a nice addition to the package. But shortly after arrival, strange things begin marring this ideal facade, including random doorbell rings in the middle of the night, creepy doll head appearances and the discovery of past nannies fleeing after only a few days on the job. For those who enjoy a good haunted house plot line, you’ll be pleased with the creep factor of this narrative.
Ware’s books tend to feature similar protagonists; young women struggling to get a foot up, whether it be in their career, their finances, or their social life. They typically find themselves in a somewhat dangerous, isolated setting for the majority of the story, and then things get progressively worse as the days pass. I don’t personally have a problem with this repetition, I find her books incredibly readable, and the characters, although similar, are all sympathetic, even when they don’t seem that way at the outset. I’ll hazard a guess that the majority of Ware’s readers are female simply because her male characters tend to take a backseat (which again, I’m totally fine with) but I do think it’s important to point this out in my reviews. Class divide also comes up quite often in her stories; people living below the poverty line tend to butt up against the extremely wealthy, but this adds to the tension in her novels rather than distract from them.
Sensitive readers should be aware of the fact that a child does die in this book, but it’s something you learn right at the outset so that’s not a spoiler. And even though I’m a parent and loathe reading books about children being hurt, I found this bearable and quickly dealt with, so it shouldn’t scare off potential fans. Some goodreads reviewers complained that the descriptions of childcare were tedious, but I didn’t notice this at all, probably because it’s simply my reality at the moment. In fact, these details made Rowan more realistic, and helped ground me in her life, so I found these scenes to be beneficial rather than boring.
The book itself is set up as a big long letter from Rowan to a potential attorney, in hopes he will take on her case to defend her name, as she’s been accused of this child’s murder. The truth of what happened is revealed in letters as well, which was a unique framing technique that tied the whole plot together nicely. It’s quite clear from the beginning that Rowan has secrets, but the depth and consequences of these secrets is what’s up for debate. Ware doesn’t fall too far down this trap however, the intensity of the narrative isn’t dependent on learning Rowan’s secrets, so as a reader, I was satisfied with the ending. The Turn of the Key is another great example of escapism at its best, and with Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect season to read it in.