Reviews

The Turn of the Key

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.


If you know me, you know that I really enjoy Ruth Ware. I’ve read all of her books but one (The Woman in Cabin 10) and have enjoyed all of them; some of them I’ve enjoyed a LOT. So I was highly anticipating this Summer release date for The Turn of the Key. After finally getting my hands on this one, I can happily report that I’m not disappointed.

The Turn of the Key is pretty much everything I wanted from Ware. It is atmospheric, thrilling, creepy, and completely sucked me in from the first chapter.

One aspect I really enjoyed in this novel was the constant wondering WHAT the threat in this book actually was: Supernatural? Mundane? Psychological? I loved bouncing back and forth between theories for the majority of this book and, though the ending still left me with a lot of questions, I genuinely had a lot of fun throughout the roller coaster that was this story.

My favorite thing about this book was how hard it was to listen to in the dark. I don’t get creeped out easily but just imagining that “creeeeeak” that she writes so well coming from the floor above her bed, I began to hear and think about it when I was laying in bed myself. This book was eerie and continually compelling because of that fact. Turn of the Key manages to keep the urgency of a thriller while still creating the slow, deeper dread that a horror novel usually produces.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ware’s characters is that they are not detectives or police or even “crime-solving citizens” they’re just women. Women who respond to these mysterious and scary moments with relatable fear, confusion, and just trying their damndest to figure out what they’ve gotten themselves into. I relate to that, especially in the types of mysteries that Ware tells, tangled in the further complicating factors of love and family and work. Aside from a few twists and revelations, this book was no different. Though I wanted to throw Rowan across the room for many of her choices, Ware is great at wrapping the fog of “what is right and true” tightly around her story and her character’s actions, forcing us to also ask the same of ourselves.

I also enjoyed the format and style of this book; I love a good first person narrative. Turn of the Key begins with a letter from Rowan to an unnamed attorney, and the anticipatory dread this created added to the urgency throughout the book. It reminded me a little of the book Alias Grace, where you’re left to decide so much for yourself about what’s actually happened in the story.

The only thing I might have changed is the ending. While it was a shocking and interesting twist, I still have so many burning questions now that the book is over! I feel like there were certain threads throughout the story that got lost in the final pages. I still didn’t see that twist coming, so I consider this a semi-win. I’d love to hear your opinions on this ending if you’ve read it yourself!

Overall, Turn of the Key was a creepy, pulse-pounding thriller that I sped through in a day and I would do it all again. I just had fun reading this book and continuing to find out what happened at every turn. Despite its small plot holes, I still enjoyed this new addition to Ware’s body of work. I hope that you do too!

Find this book on Amazon, here!

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Reviews

Truly Devious

“Schools may be famous for many things: academics, graduates, sports teams.
They are not supposed to be famous for murders.”

Truly Devious follows Stevie Bell on her way to her first year at the illustrious Ellingham Academy. Ellingham is somewhat famous for a bizarre murder where the killer left a riddle, that is still yet to be solved. And there’s another odd thing about Ellingham– they believe that learning is a game.

All of her classmates seem to be prodigies or special in some way and she comes to wonder if that doesn’t have something to do with the school’s odd philosophies. Stevie herself is somewhat of a prodigy, or she hopes to be, when it comes to solving crimes. Her plan? To solve the Truly Devious murder that happened right here at Ellingham all those years ago. Which only gets more complicated as another grisly murder envelops the school.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson was a truly fun read.

It had some highs and lows for me personally, but I still can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this book all the way through. There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Let’s start with the highs.

The main character, Stevie, was my favorite part of this book. Stevie is smart, witty, confident and has watched Law and Order: SVU almost as many times as I have. Her humor is quick and funny and I also thought that most of her choices aligned well with her skills and background, which I love to read in a book. I never felt like “why is a high school kid doing this right now?” which is so refreshing. Whether it was her fascination with crime, striving to be herself with conservative and concerned parents, or reacting to a friend’s death, I felt that Stevie was a pretty authentic teenager, and I enjoyed following her around. I could’ve done with a few less Sherlock Holmes references, just because I think the comparison between them isn’t serving to Stevie, but that’s something small I don’t consider a real issue.

Personally, I especially loved her battle with anxiety throughout the book. I struggle with an Anxiety Disorder myself and they are the worst, so to see it portrayed in such an accurate and relatable way was wonderful. From her struggle to remember if she has her medications with her when she needs them to a very authentic panic attack near the end of the book, I felt honesty and empathy in all of these scenes. I appreciated that Johnson added this layer so much.

Another aspect of this book that I liked was the fact that the main plot is written alongside a sub-plot that happens in parallel in 1963, when the first Truly Devious murder took place at Ellingham. Many times I found myself more invested in this story than the other and it was hard to go back and forth sometimes! These were probably my favorite chapters, and reading about the old murder and how it all fell out felt like an important piece of this story.

One thing Truly Devious has an abundance of is side characters. All of them were unique and interesting, but at some point I stopped being able to keep track of all of the people we’d met. Some of them we meet so briefly that I wasn’t sure why they were there in the first place, except that this is a series and they may come into play at a later date. I kept thinking about googling a character chart.

The only aspect that I truly struggled with was an odd one, and that’s the feeling that…nothing really happened throughout most of this book. Some big events cluster at the end, which had a more satisfying feel, but for a lot of the novel Stevie is settling in at school and the focus is on her and her friends’ lives. This may be a personal preference, but I wanted to get to the crime solving already! It’s a great premise for a novel but I felt that there were a lot of opportunities missed to focus on the most interesting parts of this book. Now, knowing that its a trilogy, I temper this complaint with the fact that this book may have been our introduction to the characters for this series. But I still wanted more. Even the end, while technically having two cliffhangers, felt something like a dream melting away when I set the book down. I can’t completely decide how I feel about the end.

Right now you may be saying “Wait, I thought you liked this book, but nothing happened?” Yeah! I did! I know, it’s weird. Aside from any complaints I have about the plot or the characters, Truly Devious was fun to read. I never found myself in a position where I wanted to stop reading or didn’t want to turn the page. It swept me up into a confusing momentum that I rode out until the end.

Overall, I think I would recommend Truly Devious. Especially those who like more contemporary or teen relationships than gritty murder or those who like a gentler kind of crime novel. It definitely achieves these and more. I really do look forward to reading the sequel, both to see how the series improves and because I want to know what happens.

Overall, good and bad, but Truly Devious was still a ride I would get on again. Look for the review to the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, in the coming weeks!

“There is nothing so serious as a game.”