Ware’s excellent psychological thriller, as the title suggests, references Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. It includes a nanny alone, a house that appears to be haunted, and children who aren’t quite what they seem. But Ware hauls the story into the 21st century by making the technology of today as menacing as the story’s isolated location, a Scottish estate.
Rowan Caine, a young woman with secrets, stands accused of murdering one of the four children in her care while serving as a nanny. But which child died under her care, what brought Rowan to Scotland in the first place, and what were the events that led up to that fateful event? The answers to those questions slowly reveal themselves, with each answer resulting in a myriad of new questions.
Unhappy in her job at a London daycare center, Rowan answers an advertisement for a live-in nanny, one with a very generous salary, for architects Bill and Sandra Elincourt. Even before traveling north to interview for the job, Rowan immediately discovers the first of many warning signs that maybe the position is too good to be true: four predecessors have all walked off the job in the last year. As a result, that promised salary comes in the form of a lump-sum bonus only after she’s completed her term of service. She also learns that the enormous house where the family lives has been wired to be smart in every way, with an Alexa-on-steroids program called Happy that manages the most mundane of daily activities—turning on lights, making lists—while also ensuring that privacy is a thing of the past.
Once Rowan arrives in Scotland, she quickly wins over Sandra, whose claims to be less than enamored of the house’s technology prove to be less than genuine. Then Bill and Sandra announce they need to leave her alone with the children while they work on a major project, and those children are not enthralled by the new nanny. Ware does a good job of creating tension through the vastness of the house and grounds, bringing in elements such as a nasty housekeeper, a handsome handyman with an agenda, a walled poison garden, and an attic filled with secrets.
But above all, Ware skillfully lays the bread crumbs to the novel’s satisfying conclusion without dropping too many hints or duping the reader. She presents Rowan as a woman making questionable decisions, and, by the end, provides a reason for each of those decisions, if not a justification. The final section not only pulls together the plot’s many threads but also leaves readers with one final, haunting question, one that will stay with them long after they turn the last page. Agent: Eve White, Eve White Literary (U.K.). (Aug.)
Agatha Award finalist Edwin Hill is the author of Little Comfort.
The Christian Science Monitor
"Ruth Ware is good at writing creepy tales and this novel about a nanny moving into an apparently haunted smart house takes a gothic trope and modernizes it. Even better is an ending that you won’t see coming and that reframes everything you’ve just heard. Narrator Imogen Church underscores the story’s eeriness, as she sounds appropriately young and energetic, easily conveying fright and desperation."
From the Publisher
"A superb suspense writer... Ware is a master at signaling the presence of evil at the most mundane moments... Rowan stays put for reasons we won’t understand until the final act of this tragedy. And that’s when Ware’s gifts for structuring an ingenious suspense narrative really come to the fore... Ware pulls out a stunner on the penultimate page that radically alters how we interpret everything that’s come before. Brava, Ruth Ware. I daresay even Henry James would be impressed."
—Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan for The Washington Post
"Let’s just say that if you’ve got an Echo, you’re going to unplug it as soon as you finish the book... What Ware does beautifully is infuse The Turn of the Key with a creepy Gothic sensibility. For all of the novel’s contemporary touches—particularly the house’s malevolent smart technology—she has delivered an old-fashioned horror story, peopled by children with ‘eyes full of malice,’ a dour housekeeper straight out of Rebecca and an inscrutable handyman."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Ruth Ware—one of our favorite thriller writers—is bringing down the house... Read it for a fast-paced ride."
“This appropriately twisty Turn of the Screw update finds the Woman in Cabin 10 author in her most menacing mode, unfurling a shocking saga of murder and deception.”
"A clever and elegant update to James's story... Surveillance and home technology slot easily into the conventions of horror: They bring the sense that your environment is invaded and controlled from afar, and that you are never quite as alone as you might wish... The Turn of the Key, and novels like it, point to a new reality. We are all, constantly, haunted."
"Henry James via Black Mirror... While the ambiguity in James’s masterpiece is 'ghosts or madness?,' here it is 'ghosts or glitch?' Unlike The Turn of the Screw, however, Ware picks a lane, deploying a satisfyingly dizzying parade of twists and reveals without leaving much unexplained."
—Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB)
"Diabolically clever. Twisty and creepy, The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware's best book yet. Read with a blanket nearby, because you will get shivers up your spine."
—Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Time I Lied
"A ghost story for the twenty-first century, a propulsive gothic thriller with characters you’ll really care about. With this book, Ruth Ware proves she’s the true heir to Wilkie Collins. Creepy, engrossing, and oh-so-hard to put down."
—JP Delaney, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before
"Pure suspense, from the first gripping page to the last shocking twist."
—Erin Kelly, bestselling author of He Said/She Said
"Ruth Ware has been called the Agatha Christie of our generation... The Turn of the Key is a great read. You’re going to enjoy it very much."
—#1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci for his “Hot Beach Reads: Guilty Pleasures, Popular Books” pick as part of the Today Show’s “Best Summer Reads of 2019, according to Top Authors” segment
"If you've never spent a long weekend devouring a Ruth Ware thriller on a hammock, this is the summer to start. Her fifth novel, The Turn of the Key, is set in the Scottish Highlands and is as compulsively readable as you would expect a Ware book to be."
—CBS WATCH! MAGAZINE
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“We hope it’s not too much to say that Ruth Ware is the future of traditional mystery in contemporary settings; each of her novels takes us into well-worn territory and reinvents for the present day. Her upcoming mystery is no exception.”
"Readers, you’ll want to sleep with the lights on (and your Alexa off) after reading this spooky tale from Ruth Ware."
“The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10 returns this summer with a new novel fans of the thriller genre will love."
"All of Ruth Ware’s books have been creepy and deeply mysterious, in other words...awesome! But I think this might be her best one yet."
"The Turn of the Key is a brilliantly crafted, chilling suspense thriller. Clues are seeded through the tale like poisonous plants that you only recognise when it's far too late. Trust no one in this novel except Ruth Ware – she has come up with a totally compelling tale once again."
—Jane Casey, award-winning author of The Burning
"Superb as expected... Lovely echoes of Turn of the Screw in a contemporary thriller. A masterclass in tension."
—Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes
"Ware’s mastery of the traditional mystery merged with the twisty psychological thriller never fails to impress! While Ware is known for her sudden reversals, I promise you that you’ll never see the end of The Turn of the Key coming. Which means everyone needs to read it so we can talk about that ending."
"A classically spooky thriller involving a potentially murderous nanny and a smart house gone wrong in the Scottish Highlands. Ruth Ware is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, and her fans are legion and loyal."
"A tale full of mystery and suspense that no one other than Ware can weave, The Turn of the Key will keep you on the edge of your seat."
—Grand Island Independent
"Ruth Ware is the master of writing terrifying novels that readers can’t get enough of. From The Woman in Cabin 10 to The Lying Game and a plethora of other smash hits, she knows what it takes to write a truly captivating book."
“Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel.”
"In Ware’s latest book, The Turn of the Key, she delivers a novel full of twisted tension that will have readers looking at technology a little bit differently... It solidifies her spot among the greats."
"Are you attached to your Alexa? Do you control various aspects of your home from your smartphone? Prepare to be creeped out. Ruth Ware’s latest thriller, The Turn of the Key, tells the story of a nanny in a smart home that turns downright harrowing."
"Breathlessly atmospheric, The Turn of the Key is a deliciously creepy mystery... Ware's twist on a classic is sure to be a hit for fans of psychological thrillers."
"Ruth Ware’s homage to The Turn of the Screw is filled with all of the best gothic elements: an unreliable narrator, an isolated setting, creepy children and a house that functions as its own menacing character. Part epistolary novel, part psychological thriller, The Turn of the Key is compulsively readable and will keep readers guessing until the very last page... Ware is adept at managing multiple plot threads and using them to shock her reader. The beauty of The Turn of the Key is in how it takes the tropes central to the gothic genre, like the isolated haunted house, and gives them a 21st-century spin while still managing to feel fresh and surprising to even the most gothic-averse reader. Straddling the line between horror and thriller, this novel will delight fans of both genres."
"Thriller lovers, fasten your seat belts... Read The Turn of the Key today and hold on through the twists. You’ll find yourself racing to the end to see what—and who—you can really believe."
Ware demonstrated a flair for the modern gothic in The Death of Mrs Westaway; here the author puts her spin on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. The classic tropes—a nanny left alone with two children in a remote house, a bitter housekeeper, a mysterious caretaker, unexplained noises, a locked door that's never been opened—are combined with 21st-century creepiness. The house runs on smart technology, which can be activated by anyone with the right passcodes. As Rowan Caine explains in letters to a lawyer written from prison, she took the position as live-in nanny to the Elincourts to get out of a demoralizing job and a difficult roommate situation. The pay was generous and the two young girls were well behaved. But when the parents left immediately after she arrived, the girls were a lot less amiable, and the home's smart controls were wonky. Temperatures would drop in the middle of the night or alarms would blare with no way of shutting them off. When Rowan starts hearing noises behind the locked door in her bedroom, she wonders if there's more here than meets the eye. VERDICT Ware hits another one out of the park. Fans of hers or anyone with a taste for the disturbing will stay up late devouring this.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal
Ware (The Death of Mrs. Westaway, 2018, etc.) channels The Turn of the Screw in her latest creepy mystery when a nanny takes a post at a haunted country house.
Traveling to Heatherbrae House to interview for a nanny position, Rowan Caine finds a gorgeously redone Victorian mansion nestled in the remote Scottish moors. Sandra Elincourt is stylish and smart, and the girls seem sweet enough, though 8-year-old Maddie rings some alarm bells in Rowan's mind. So what if the last four nannies left under mysterious circumstances? Rowan knows she's where she belongs—even when Maddie tries to warn her away, claiming that "the ghosts wouldn't like it" if she stays. On her first day, however, Bill Elincourt makes a pass at her, and then both parents leave on a business trip, planning to be gone for at least a week. Left alone with the three little girls, Rowan can't shake the feeling that there are other forces at work in the house. When strange noises begin to wake them all in the night, it seems like the house may indeed be haunted. What happened to those other nannies? Why is Maddie intent on getting Rowan fired? Why is there a garden of poison plants? And who wrote "We hate you" all over the attic walls? Ware excels at taking classic mystery tropes and reinventing them; her novels always feel appealingly anachronistic because while the technology is 21st century, there is something traditionally gothic about the settings, full of exaggerated luxury and seething dark corners. In this case, she reimagines the Victorian ghost story, with Henry James the most obvious influence not just on the plot, but also on the narrative frame, as the story actually takes the form of a letter written by Rowan to her solicitor as she sits imprisoned for murder. Regrettably, the novel's ending leaves a few too many loose ends while also avoiding the delicious ambiguity of its Victorian predecessors.
Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel.