Title: The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Genre: Mystery Thriller
First Publication: 2019
Book Summary: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
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 unraveling 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. And 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.
Book Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is told in epistolary format, Rowan is writing to a solicitor, Mr. Wrexham about her very publicized case. She wants him to know she’s innocent and didn’t do it. She is serving a sentence for the murder of one of the children she was nannying for. We eventually learn she nannied for a family of four children in this high-tech smart house.
One of the girls is trouble for Rowan and the house starts to do weird things. Rowan gets the feeling that the house is haunted because of its dark past. We also question Rowan because we know she’s hiding things about herself. Can Rowan be trusted? Is she really innocent?
The house is a character in the book as it plays a major role. Heatherbrae is a “smart” house, filled with surveillance equipment and the ability to turn on and off anything electrical by command, using an app named “Happy.” There are a few incidents where it seems to malfunction but such things do happen, right? The Turn of the Key serves as a warning to advancing the capabilities of a smart house because it shows the reader how things can go very wrong.
“Better to achieve perfect marks on an easy test than flunk a hard one, that was my motto.”
The “haunted” house featured in this novel gave me full-on heebie jeebies. I had to stop listening to the audiobook on more than one occasion. Heatherbrae House is an unusual combination of Victorian with all the technology that makes it a smart house, with cameras installed everywhere and a handyman, Jack, on staff. Strange and frightening events take place at Heatherbrae, creating a dark, ominous, and haunting environment, culminating in the murder of a kid. Rowan is in jail awaiting her murder trial, anxious about her legal counsel, and composing a letter to a barrister, Mr Wrexham, professing her innocence of the crime she has been charged with and pointing out the facts that have led to her current heinous situation.
The Turn of the Key is presented entirely through Rowan’s eyes, as she writes to a solicitor through a series of letters about what led to her arrest. Rowan is an unreliable narrator, and the reader is treated with a great deal of telling. While I normally dislike this sort of narrative approach, I think it works in this situation since Rowan gives a thorough description of her experience at Heatherbrae. All one has to do now is keep questioning if her version of events is correct. The story is definitely creepy and there is the whole vibe of “what is really going on here?”
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is one of those that keeps you guessing and makes you not really trust anything. Admittedly, it gets a little long in the middle and I found myself wanting to hurry things along. This was especially true when it came to Rowan’s sleep deprivation and “madness”. But then things started wrapping up and I was turning the pages at a furious pace.