In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ware, Ruth

Reluctantly accepting an old friend's invitation to spend a weekend on the English countryside, reclusive writer Leonora awakens in a hospital badly injured, unable to recall what happened and confronting a growing certainty that someone involved has died.

In a highly readable, atmospheric thriller, debut novelist Ware tells of a hen party that goes terribly wrong. Reclusive British crime novelist Nora Shaw can't figure out why she's been invited to Clare Cavendish's bachelorette party. Although they were best friends in high school, she hasn't seen Clare in years. Her curiosity gets the better of her, and she soon finds herself in rural Northumberland in a gleaming modern house set deep in the woods. But there's no cell-phone service, the hostess is gratingly perky, and Clare delivers a bombshell by revealing whom she is about to marry-and that all occurs before Nora lands in the hospital with some very serious injuries and no memory of what happened. Ware not only conjures a sinister atmosphere, made all the creepier because it is such a beautiful house in a beautiful setting, but she also cleverly plays off the fraught dynamics of a hen party where no one seems particularly happy for the prospective bride. And the fast pace and intriguing secondary characters add a good deal of texture to the mix. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

In Ware's debut, a reclusive crime writer reunites with a long-lost friend during a weekend hen party that goes horribly wrong. When Leonora Shaw wakes up in the hospital with memory gaps and a head wound, one of the first questions she asks is, "What have I done?" Through flashbacks, Ware slowly unspools the mystery, setting a truly spooky scene as six relative strangers gather at the isolated Glass House, celebrating the upcoming marriage of Nora's former friend Clare Cavendish, with whom she had lost touch 10 years before. Nora, sensitive and skittish and nursing some great secret about her past and her lost friendship with Clare, wants nothing more than to leave, but she feels trapped by curiosity, guilt, and obligation to Flo, the woman who planned the weekend and takes any complication as a personal affront. In classic Agatha Christie fashion, the first half of the novel is masterful in the slow build of suspense. Clearly, something is very wrong, but it's unclear wheth er it's Nora, Clare, Flo, or some outside intruder who is responsible for the chills and the deepening unease. Unfortunately, as Nora's memory returns, the truth and the climax ultimately disappoint, and Nora's timidity and secrecy become frustrating. The final reveal is pretty predictable. However, the success of the first half of the novel does speak to Ware's ability to spin a good yarn. Recalling such classics as And Then There Were None, she creates a unique setting for the psychological scares, and her characters, while somewhat stock, have enough depth to fool even savvy mystery fans for a while. Like the Glass House itself, this novel is "a tiger's enclosure, with nowhere to hide" and with a constant undercurrent of danger. Read it on a dark and stormy night—with all the lights on. Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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