In an interview with NPR, author Ruth Ware said someone mentioned the idea of mixing the “English country house murder” genre with a modern-day hen (bachelorette) party — and she thought it was brilliant. So often the hens don’t know one another or haven’t seen each other in years. It’s already awkward.
Ware expands on the idea by giving the characters a remote, slick, modern, glassy cube of a house in the middle of the Northumberland woods. Spotty cell reception and miles from the nearest small town.
Our narrator, Leonora, wakes up in a hospital, unclear where she is or what has happened. She slowly pieces together the uncomfortable memories of the long weekend and merges them with traces of school era recollections. Coupled with her social anxiety, her thoughts are disjunct and rambling.
From the outset, she is hesitant to even attend the party. As the weekend gets weirder and more strained, she wishes she had stayed home altogether. Once the phone line is cut and unclaimed footprints appear in the fresh snow, she is more ready to get out.
The book is a fun one, a bit like a pulpy, guilty pleasure. It is by no means high literature, but neither is it meant to be. I was in some ways reminded of the Christopher Pike books of my youth — deliciously trashy, and compulsively readable.
I close my eyes, and I try to think myself back there, to the quiet clearing in the forest, to the great glowing blocks of the house, shining out through the dark close-clustered trees. I smell again the scent of fallen pine needles; I feel the cold bite of the snow on my fingers and inside my nose. I remember the sounds of the forest, the soft patter of snow sliding from overladen branches, the hoot of an owl, the sound of an engine disappearing in the darkness. ~Pg. 241
The strength of the book lies in the carefully set-out clues and the slow build-up of the mystery. Ware places suspicion on the various characters through the eyes of her uncomfortable but observant narrator. However, after the climax, it stumbles too quickly into an explanation, one that will not surprise most readers.
It does solidify my refusal to attend bachelorette parties.
Many thanks to Scout Press for the review copy.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (August 4, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches