This is one of those books I couldn’t stop hearing about. I was constantly seeing the cover dancing across Twitter and people raving about it. As always, I am a little hesitant with hyped books because sometimes the hype is misplaced but not with this book! I can confirm the hype is very much deserved. I must also note here that I started reading this book at about 3pm yesterday and finished it at twenty past midnight! (I also managed to watch GBBO, Cinderella, have dinner and have a bath in between so in reality it probably took me about 4 hours to read!! I couldn’t put it down)
In A Dark, Dark Wood has a very frightening premise. A hen party of a friend you haven’t seen in ten years, set in the middle of the winter countryside, there’s no phone signal, you’re in a glass house with a dark wood encroaching on the scene. Well, that sends chills up my spine already. Nora, our protagonist, is invited to the hen party of childhood friend Clare and is reluctant to accept the invitation as it’s been years since they last had contact. But, when Nina, Nora’s friend, makes a pact with her that they will both go, Nora accepts the invitation and begrudgingly attends. However the weekend of fun and frolicking doesn’t quite come to fruition and instead a weekend of tension, shared histories and danger presents itself. As the weekend progresses and the snow begins to fall, the glass house next to the dark, dark wood becomes a place no one wants to be.
ARGH. I get shivers just thinking about this book. It is simply petrifying! It takes a LOT for a book to scare me but as I was lying in bed last night, little reading lamp on and eyes racing across the pages, I really was genuinely frightened. I was almost too scared to peek around the edge of the book!!
So, why did I love this book so much?
Firstly, the plot is very unpredictable. I’ve read some negative reviews on Amazon saying that this book is hugely predictable and I cannot fathom how they could have predicted it!! I like to think I’m a little bit of a Sherlock but I really couldn’t have predicted the way this plot unraveled. It seemed to be mystery after mystery and whilst I picked up on a few clues on the way, I couldn’t piece it altogether to create the ending. Ware has planned the plot meticulously so you have tiny pieces of carrot dangled in front of you but they’re just not quite far enough for you to reach so you have to keep going.
This book was hugely compelling. I wasn’t able to put it down for very long and each time I did, I was constantly thinking about the characters and what was in store for them next. I also really warmed to Nora which meant I was really desperate to find out what was going to happen to her – as the plot progressed I started to fear for her safety and found myself fearing things on her behalf. Her interaction with the other characters was interesting. I felt the huge tension between her and Clare and also with Clare’s friend Flo who was almost demonic in her insistence that the hen party would be a success. Her relationship with Nina was almost the only warmth I could find in the plot and it was only when they were alone together that I felt I could let my guard down a little.
It would be criminal to write this review without mentioning Ware’s ability to set a scene! Ok, so maybe the whole winter, getting dark early, no phone signal etc are quite stereotypical characteristics of a good setting for a thriller but honestly, the descriptions were so vivid and tangible that I didn’t care. I could feel the cold wind brushing against my cheeks, the sound of cars crunching along windy, potholed driveways, the sound of a chair dragging across the tiled floor, the forced laughter and fake camaraderie around the coffee table eating greasy pizza. I could picture myself there perfectly.
I thoroughly recommend this book. It is a rare gem from an author who I am now desperate to hear more from. It is so rare to find a book that not only surprises you and scares you but to also be a book that you want to hold close and not let go.