The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware’s latest thriller.
I’m a Ruth Ware fan, so of course, I like it.
Rowan is a nanny with a past. We know two things pretty much from the outset:
- She sits in jail, accused of murdering one of the family members.
- She has secrets.
Every other detail is a mystery. A juicy one.
Almost as soon as she gets the nannying job, the parents leave Rowan alone with their four kids, including a baby and a rebellious teenager. The house is in a remote countryside, mixing almost unrestrained nature on the outside with a cutting-edge smart home inside. Everything in the house is wired to the hilt – every move is subject to cameras, voice commands, app controls. It’s immediately disorienting to Rowan, especially if she wants to do a seemingly simple task such as turning on the lights.
Have I mentioned the ghost?
So here’s Rowan, stuck in a remote area with four little girls who hate her, no help, unable to even turn the lights on and off, cut off from anyone else, sleep-deprived, and living in a possibly haunted house.
Ruth Ware is excellent at harkening back to classic mysteries, as she did masterfully with books such as The Death of Mrs. Westaway. The Turn of the Key has strong ties to the classic Henry James book, The Turn of the Screw. In Screw, the governess becomes convinced that a ghost is trying to get to the children. Both include seemingly malevolent maids, maladjusted kids at the center of the drama, and frustratingly ambivalent endings.
The Turn of the Key is a great potboiler of a book, slowly turning up the heat. Not too wordy (one of the common critiques of The Turn of the Screw) and excellent at showing that most of the drama comes from the nanny’s own inner turmoil.