When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.
It was everything.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.
Like I told you ages ago in my Waiting on Wednesday post, I’ve been a Ruth Ware fan since day one. I’ve loved every single one of her books, and still I wasn’t fully prepared for The Turn of the Key, which overshadows them all! Yes, even The Death of Mrs Westaway, which was on my Best of 2018 list as I’m sure you’ll all remember 😉. It takes a mighty fine book to live up to so many and such high expectations, but The Turn of the Key not only lived up to all my unrealistic expectations, it absolutely resolutely wiped the floor with them!
With The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware ventures a little deeper into the gothic realm. Ruth’s first books were contemporary thrillers, The Death of Mrs Westaway had a distinct Rebecca feel to it, and now Ruth has kicked it up a notch with a distinct The Turn of the Screw vibe. The reader is taken to a remote setting in rural Scotland, to a house that is part creepy Victorian, part super-modern and ultra-sleek. The family that live here are looking for a live-in nanny, because the parents are extremely busy and there are four girls to take care of: a baby, a five-year-old, an eight-year-old and a teenager who is at boarding school during the week. Rowan has all the required experience and a desperate desire to land herself this job. And then she does, but soon she comes to realise it might not all go according to plan. The dad is creepy, both parents leave on a business trip right away, leaving Rowan in charge of the girls who are more than a handful, she can’t figure out the smart house settings and all the lights and blaring music go on in the middle of the night, she keeps hearing strange noises at night (surely those aren’t footsteps in the attic???) and can she trust the groundskeeper? But what is Rowan hiding, is she as squeaky clean as she appears?
I loved everything about this novel in which nothing is what it seems. The characters are well-rounded, every time I thought I’d figured Rowan out, or I understood where one of the girls were coming from and why they were behaving like they did, they showed a new side of themselves that I hadn’t expected. I loved the gothic setting and the gothic vibes. I loved the mystery and the suspense. I loved the heart-breaking finale that left me bereft, speechless, breathless.
Like the house where it’s set, The Turn of the Key is part one thing, part another, but unlike the house, the various elements never clash. It’s a contemporary thriller, ghost story and mystery all rolled up into one bloody brilliant book! I read it in two sittings, at 1 AM I had to force myself to put it down, the next day I read until it was finished and it left me literally breathless. I never saw any of it coming. It’s a bit of slow-burner at first, but it got under my skin from the very first page and I was hooked. The spooky parts that are so deliciously creepy (or maybe reading this in the dark was not the best idea ever), my detective hat was planted firmly on my head to try and figure out what the hell was happening (I’m leaving it on the peg for Ruth’s next novel, there’s just no point), The Turn of the Key combines everything I love in a story and I cannot recommend it enough!