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Monday 3 October 2016

‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ by Ruth Ware

Narrated by Imogen Church
Published by Random House Audiobooks, 30 July 2015.
Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins.  Unabridged.

I love crime novels where a mysterious, hinted-at past ends up being the key to everything. Give me an isolated, sinister setting and relationships harking back to school days, and I’m in heaven. So the premise of In a Dark, Dark Wood was always going to thrill me: an invitation to spend a winter hen weekend at a house buried deep in a Northumberland forest from a one-time best friend with whom the protagonist, Nora, has had no contact for ten years.

And I did enjoy this hugely. All the characters were fascinating and well depicted, and the isolation of the designer house with huge plate glass windows looking out only on to snowy trees served well to force the kind of behaviour it’s great fun to read about but which we pray we’ll never encounter. Nora spends the opening section of the novel wondering if she should say no to the invite, and the first half of it wishing she’d never said yes, and sometimes it is easy to think; quite, why did you say yes, why did you stay, but at the same time her reasons are sufficiently compelling for us to understand and go along with her motivation.

What I found harder to accept was the fact she was a crime writer, yet she couldn’t see something that was staring her in the face as soon as we fully grasped what had gone on when she was 16. dmittedly, that was a satisfyingly long way in, by which time Nora was in hospital with a head injury frantically trying to recall what horrors exactly had happened in the house in the woods as the police start to interview her. I didn’t think someone used to examining the darker side of human nature would have remained in ignorance of the villain of the piece for very long. Still, I didn’t mind the fact that I was screaming the name at Nora or that she didn’t cotton on until the very end; it added to the entertainment.  This novel was much more than a whodunit, and delivered on its promise of entertainment supremely well.  

I was a listener rather than a reader. The narration was skilled, with pace and tone just right and suitable distinction largely achieved between the characters. Some otherwise highly competent female narrators come horribly unstuck when it comes to male dialogue, giving a rather silly faux-deep tone to the male characters, made worse when it’s used identically for each one. Isobel Church had no such difficulties. She also bought into the age of the characters and gave them the Australian inflection that afflicts everyone under the age of 35 and many of those above, with the voice rising as though in question at the end of most sentences. It wasn’t used quite enough to seriously irritate, it was certainly used sufficiently to lend authenticity. Overall, an accomplished read of a novel I’d recommend.
Reviewed by Dea Parkin

Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer, and now lives in North London with her family.
Her début thriller, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and has been optioned for film by New Line Cinema. The follow up, The Woman in Cabin Ten, was out 30th June, and she is currently working on her third psychological thriller, The Lying Game.

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Imogen Church was born in Scotland and raised in England. Imogen trained as an actress at The Drama Centre London.  Since graduating, she has worked extensively in theatre, film, commercials and comedy sketch work and she works regularly as a voice artist. As a screenwriter, her first screenplay won the 2009 award for Best Feature Screenplay at the Reel Women Film Festival in Los Angeles. Imogen seeks out different, interesting and renegade projects that keep life varied. She likes bicycles and cake.

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