Her 8th and latest book, Zero Days by Ruth Ware is a slight departure from what she’s known for; thrillers, mysteries, gothic suspense are more typical of her backlist. Instead, this new release is more akin to an action movie, following a very similar plot to the Harrison Ford film The Fugitive. I’ll admit to preferring her more classic murder mysteries (especially when they include elements of the supernatural), but Zero Days was still a page-turner, something we’ve come to expect from Ware’s growing catalogue.

Plot Summary

Jacqueline (Jack) and her husband Gabe have a unique job; they break and hack into corporate offices, then report back into them to provide thorough audits on their security needs based on how easy it was to accomplish. Gabe is the one who stays home on the computers, while Jack does the physical stuff, sneaking through doors, climbing into the ceilings, etc. One night, Jack returns from a routine job and finds her husband dead at home, his neck slashed. Her world is shattered, and she doesn’t have many friends or family outside of Gabe. Even worse, the day after Gabe’s death, Jack receives a strange email confirming a life insurance policy has been taken out on Gabe for a million dollars – she is clearly being framed for this murder. Jack is even more horrified to discover that the police have one main suspect; her, and instead of cooperating with the police, she runs away, intent on finding Gabe’s killer herself. Dodging CCTV cameras, and unable to access her own accounts that have been frozen by the police, Jack finds herself sleeping rough and relying on strangers for kindness as she tries to piece the puzzle of her husband’s death together.

My Thoughts

Even though this was a slight departure of focus for Ware, it’s clear she took great care in researching this novel. I’m not sure how Ware would have researched this (speaking to criminals?) but it certainly added an element of authenticity I appreciated. The novel opens with a very detailed look at how Gabe and Jack break in to a particular office, and the elements included were almost too much for me to follow, I was worried the rest of the book was going to be just like it. Thankfully it wasn’t, Jack’s future break-ins aren’t detailed quite as closely, but it served to demonstrate important aspects of each character, which allowed me to stretch my belief with what came next.

The plot hinges on Jack’s split second decision to run from the police. She literally gets up from a police interview while they’ve gone to fetch her tea and walks out of the station. If the previous section of the book hadn’t gone into as much detail about her and Gabe’s jobs, I would have dismissed this decision as unbelievable and flimsy, but instead, it fit right in with her character development. Once that decision has been made, the rest of the plot flies by. Being on the run from the police adds an obvious element of suspense, but because Jack is trying to solve her own mystery at the same time there is no shortage of action. And unlike Ware’s previous novels, this is a visceral, edge-of-your-seat action, it’s not a psychological book.

About halfway through the novel I knew who the culprit was, but I don’t think Ware intended on keeping this secret, simply because there were so few characters included in the first place due to Jack being such an isolated person. Instead, Ware builds up the tension by forcing Jack to determine motive before she can present her case to the police and clear her own name. And like all suspense novels, this one ends in a big showdown between the good and bad, so there’s an exciting ending to look forward to. I may not have enjoyed this one as much as previous Ware books, but I still liked reading it, and will likely read every Ruth Ware book that comes out after it – she’s another one of my ‘must read everything’ authors.

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