Book Review: The Turn of the Key

THE TURN OF THE KEY | Ruth Ware
08.06.2019 | Gallery/Scout Press
Rating: 4/5 stars

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When Rowan Caine finds an ad for a nanny post offering a generous salary she immediately decides to apply. She has recently lost out on a promotion at her current employer and is looking for a change. Heatherbrae House is something from a dream. This estate is a renovated Victorian home fully equipped with smart features to bring the family and guests the best of the best. Surrounded by the Scottish Highlands this home is not only luxurious, but an absolutely stunning location to call home. What could go wrong here?

The Grant family consists of four daughters: an infant, two young girls, and an older teenager away from home. The parents are entrepreneurs looking for someone to care for their children while they are away on business regularly. Rowan is confident she can handle the situation until things around the home start to give her the creeps. There are surveillance cameras everywhere in the home. Something Rowan originally finds helpful to watch the children, but soon begins to feel as though someone is behind them, watching her every move. The technology in the rooms starts to glitch, causing lights to turn on and off, loud music to suddenly start playing, and an increasing feeling of losing control to settle on Rowan. Ultimately Rowan will find herself incarcerated awaiting trial for murder of one of the Grant girls. How did things get so out of control?

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THE TURN OF THE KEY is a modern Gothic novel focused around a family that on the surface seems idyllic, but at the heart is a web of secrets and lies. Immediately the story starts with Rowan writing a series of letters to a lawyer from prison. You know from the letters that she has been charged with murder, but the identity of the victim remains unclear until the final pages of the story. This plot device helps to lure the reader through the story. You find yourself constantly looking for clues of how things could turn to murder or who could be the victim.

Ruth Ware has easily become one of my favorite writers over the years as she consistently comes up with stories that fully invest me in the outcome. From the first pages I am aware something bad is coming and Ware takes me on a sweeping journey to get there. The characters of Ware’s books are truly what make this possible. The unreliability of the characters is a constant focus, but this isn’t done in a way that is stereotypical. Rowan isn’t unreliable because of a substance abuse problem, but because of the environment she’s in and the impact events have on her mind. Unexplainable noises and issues with the home’s smart system, odd items from long forgotten parts of the house appear, and the children’s seemingly off behavior. All of these instances and characters build to form a sense of mania or undoing within Rowan that the reader simply cannot look away from.

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Ware makes fantastic use of the location and Heatherbrae House as almost their own characters within this story. The house for starters seems to have a mind of its own, but could the smart system really be corrupt or is someone controlling it to appear that way? The isolation of the Scottish Highlands and this sprawling property create an uncomfortable sense of fear. Could there be someone within the walls of this house? When left to your own devices your mind can go to strange places, which is exactly what we see happening with Rowan. But is it enough to lead to murder?

I think THE TURN OF THE KEY is one of those books that should be on every crime fiction/mystery fans TBR! This isn’t a thriller, but a slow-burn that will certainly make you think and second guess all of your assumptions. The pace is well worth the truly fantastic ending!


This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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