The Turn of the Key (2019) – Ruth Ware

Title: The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: 2019
Publishers: Penguin Random House/Harvill Seeker
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer: Thank you to Penguin Books South Africa for kindly sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first book by Ruth Ware who has been known to write one hell of a thriller! If I am to recommend only one thriller for the year I think this will be the one that takes the proverbial crown. From page 1 we are introduced to our protagonist Rowan Caine through letters she has written to a solicitor known only as Mr Wrexham. The letters are meant to prove her innocence of an horrific crime involving a child left in her care, but these letters end up chronicling the devastating turn of events that began from the day Rowan discovered an ad for a job as a nanny to the Elincourt family. The day Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House in Carn Bridge a dark and deadly secret will begin to haunt her every move.

However, let’s begin at the beginning. Rowan is young and ambitious and seems pretty normal, but can you really trust her? She leaves her job to work for Bill and Sandra Elincourt who are also an odd kettle of fish as they leave Rowan in charge of their four daughters, Ellie, Maddie, Rhiannon and Petra after one interview and a day of employment for a whole week. Heatherbrae House is a character all on its own. With its simple Victorian structure the house is old, but upon entering it is also partially weighed down by Bill Elincourt’s obsession with technology and an odd mixture of original architecture and rather blatant modernism. The house is filled with cameras and microphones, and it’s functioning is controlled almost entirely by an in-house mobile phone app called Happy. Needless to say, this just adds to the overall oddness of this house and the people who live in it.

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When Rowan is left to take care of the precocious Maddie, terrified Ellie, rebellious Rhiannon and the infant Petra, she suddenly has her hands full, and her job is not made any easier by Jean Mackenzie the housekeeper who seems to have a grudge with the present nanny, as well as all the previous ones (and there have been many). Rowan’s only ally can be found in the handyman/driver Jack Grant who just so happens to share a surname with the previous owner of Heatherbrae House. As Rowan is left to her own devices she discovers disturbing snippets of information about the previous tenants of the house, and begins to question her decision to take on this job. However the reader is also questioning Rowan’s motives for being in the Elincourt’s home in the first place. Her reliability as a narrator is questionable at best, but then again so are all the characters in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful masterpiece. No one seems to be without some sort of hidden agenda, and this is good news for the reader who enjoys that feeling of being permanently on edge.

Apart from the unreliable characters, and the overall sense of doom and gloom that permeates the various backstories, the house itself seems to be almost alive at times, and that is not just because of Happy the app. Almost everything about this novel is deliciously ominous, and Ware’s talent in creating such a fantastically classic old-fashioned ‘ghost story’ for the modern reader is a welcome surprise – I am now convinced that Ruth Ware is brilliant and I will most definitely be reading more of her novels if The Turn of the Key is anything to go by. A very enthusiastic 5 stars for this brilliantly plotted thriller!

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