I Ranked All of Ruth Ware's Thrillers
1. The Turn of the Key
What it's About: A woman (Rowan) takes a job as a nanny to two young girls. It seems neither the house nor its inhabitants want her there.
My Review: I am a sucker for a novel with a unique narrative style and/or mixed media elements and especially in my mysteries/thrillers. This novel is written as Rowan's letter from prison explains the story of how she came to be the Elincort's nanny and the events that led up to one of the children's deaths. Rowan herself is an unreliable narrator which is always a fun thing to see in this genre. The story had the traditional things that go bump in the night aspects of any haunted house story but also had some more original additions. The house is a smart house run by an app that often malfunctions. The way technology is incorporated into the story is actually quite brilliant. There's also a garden full of poisonous plants which felt like something straight out of one of the fantasy stories I so adore. It's the perfect modern haunted house story.
Should You Read it?: Absolutely!
Final Rating: 5⭐️
2. One by One
What it's About: Employees of a tech-start up go on a business trip in the Swiss mountains right as an avalanche hits. Tensions rise and bodies start dropping. The novel is told from the dual perspective of former tech employee Liz and chalet employee Erin.
My Review: The pacing of this novel is unusual but perfect. The start is slow but it serves to build up tension among the characters. At around the 60% mark the killer is revealed but this doesn't feel too soon as it leads to great scenes of torturous suspense. The number of characters was ideal because there was enough for their to be two clearly divided groups while not being so many that you forget who is who. I don't generally get attached to characters in thrillers and mysteries but I absolutely adored the friendship between coworkers Erin and Danny. Finally, the dual POVs gives the reader both an insider and outsider perspective to the company drama which added layers to the story.
Should You Read it?: Definitely!
Final Rating: 5⭐️
3. The Lying Game
What it's About: Three old boarding school friends (narrator Isa, Fatima and Thea) return to the home of their friend Kate after receiving a text from her after years of silence. It turns out the body of Kate's late father has washed ashore and they all had a part to play in his death.
My Review: My favorite part of this novel is the setting of the Mill (Kate's home). As a poet I was kind of obsessed with how the Mill felt like a metaphor for the big lie about Ambrose. Just as the Mill was quite literally coming apart and being swept out to sea so too did the girls' lie spin out of control and was, at last, coming home to roost. I liked the friendship between the four girls and how we got to see it both in the past and the present day. The only character I wish we'd seen a little more of was their friend Luc. The ending was somehow both poetic and cheesy (strange for a thriller). Trigger warnings include: mentions of drug use/overdose, suicide, eating disorders and self harm as well as an adult character who draws naked children (which is never condemned).
Should You Read it?: Probably
Final Rating: 3.75⭐️
4. The Woman in Cabin 10
What it's About: Lo is a journalist for a travel magazine who is assigned to join the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise ship. One night she hears a body being thrown overboard, but all the passengers are present and accounted for.
My Review: Where this novel excels is in its atmosphere. I felt this constant sense of anxious dread and claustrophobia throughout the entire novel that only escalated as the story progressed. The minor mixed media elements were utilized well in that they elevated that ominous feeling for the reader. I almost wish there were more of them, but I don't think they were strictly needed and probably couldn't have been easily incorporated so I'm not upset about it. The characters were the worst part of the novel as they were annoying and unlikable. The protagonist grew on me as the novel progressed but she's far from a favorite character of mine. Trigger warnings for: heavy drinking, a sexual assault that is brushed over, and some subpar mental health representation.
Should You Read it?: Sure
Final Rating: 3.75⭐️
5. The Death of Mrs. Westaway
What it's About: Hal is a fortune teller down on her luck when she receives a letter saying she has inherited Mrs. Westaway's estate. She travels there where she meets Mrs. Westaway's family. The only problem? She's pretty sure it's all a misunderstanding, but she's going to try and trick them into believing she's one of them.
My Review: Hal is Ware's best developed protagonist. Despite her deception she is still a sympathetic character. She's grieving the loss of her mother. As someone who has experienced grief and likes to read books that have it in them, I thought it was done well and read realistically. The atmosphere wasn't so much creepy or unsettling but more cold and occasionally sinister. My main gripe was that I was just kind of bored while reading and it wasn't very thrilling for a thriller.
Should You Read it?: Maybe
Final Rating: 3⭐️
6. In a Dark, Dark Wood
What it's About: Nora is invited to her estranged friend Clare's hen night. Once there drama ensues and truths slowly unravel as someone winds up dead.
My Review: This novel read like a less refined version of One by One. They have a lot of similarities: the isolation trope, a winter setting, tension between the gathered characters, and even a similar climax. The tension between the characters only really worked between Nora and Clare and sometimes Nina since they all had history together. Tom felt out of place, Melanie had no purpose and left early, and Flo read like a caricature of someone with mental illness. As someone who never guesses thrillers correctly it was soooo obvious who the culprit was as well as who Ware wanted you to believe was responsible. The protagonist is a crime writer but that is never really part of the story and was wasted potential. The saving grace was the setting of the glass house in the titular woods which increased that sense of vulnerability. I would have liked it better if I hadn't already read One by One. Trigger warnings for: suicide and poor mental health representation.
Should You Read it?: Probably Not
Final Rating: 2⭐️