Maybe you left high school and never looked back. But do you have that one friend that you wish you hadn't lost touch with? Or do you still wince when certain memories of those teenage years surface without warning? Our formative years can be our most emotional, and the protagonist of In a Dark, Dark Wood has spent years trying to forget about her high school days. Leonora (a.k.a Lee, a.k.a Nora) is a solitary crime writer living a unobtrusive life in London, England. Upon returning from a jog one autumn day she checks her email and finds an invitation to a hen party (a stagette for us Canucks). The party is in celebration of Clare Cavendish's upcoming nuptials - Leonora's best friend from high school, who she hasn't seen or spoken to in ten years. Leonora is hesitant to attend, but her curiosity wins over and she makes a pact with a mutual friend that they will both go.
The story flashes back and forth between the after effects of the gathering and the events themselves. Leonora wakes up in the hospital with only scattered memories of the hen party weekend. It takes her time to put the pieces together of what has happened. As she does so, we get to see how the weekend gathering played out and led to tragic consequences. Ware's description of the architecturally striking house Leonora and the others are staying in and the snowy, wooded environment surrounding them also adds to the chilly atmosphere. To say it's a gathering of friends would be stretching the truth - most of them don't know each other and it turns out, they don't really like each other either. This is understandable as the characters are certainly flawed - nonetheless, I was sucked in to the mystery and did not figure out the whodunnit before the end. I would have liked more elucidation about the other characters and their motivations, but it was nonetheless a very enjoyable read. I devoured the book over two evenings, so I hope that Ruth Ware continues to write more books after this bestselling debut. If you like this tale you might also like Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Precious Thing by Colette McBeth, and Abroad by Katie Crouch.