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The Turn of the Key


The Turn of the Key

Since her first breakout thriller, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD, in 2015, Ruth Ware has provided goosebumps to her fans in three subsequent chilling novels --- THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, THE LYING GAME and THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY --- each distinct in its own way.

Her latest, THE TURN OF THE KEY, takes place in the Scottish Highlands in a Victorian mansion turned into an experimental high-tech house of horrors. The manse wasn’t meant to be that. Its owners, a high-powered architectural designer couple, are so embroiled in their growing business in promoting and selling their ideal of technologically advanced living that they leave the upbringing of their four young daughters up to others. They hire a live-in nanny to care for the children, a groundskeeper to tend to the extensive park-like property, and a local woman who comes in daily to tidy up, and do the shopping and laundry. 

"Twisty and surprising, as entertaining as it is heartrending, THE TURN OF THE KEY is a book you will not want to put down."

Rowan Caine is a bored young woman, passed over for a promotion at a London daycare center, and is browsing websites in search of a more exciting career away from the hassle of big-city commutes and petty coworkers. She spots an ad that suits her skills to a T --- a live-in nanny in the Scottish Highlands --- and the position comes with an eye-popping salary and benefits. She immediately applies, provides her extensive CV, and is excited to be contacted for an interview. She passes with flying colors.

So Rowan quits her job, heads for the Highlands and moves into the extravagant surroundings with high expectations. She struggles with learning to live in a house operated by a computer that electronically greets her each day in a sing-song voice, opens doors and draperies, and turns on lights and appliances, all inoperable without her thumbprint or code words, and constantly reminds one and all that they live in a “Happy House”. (A side note here: I routinely curse my “smart” phone for its complexities. But a house run by a computer? Kill me now! At least it doesn’t try to convince me that I’m happy!)

There are early warning signs that things may not seem to be as promised, which Rowan simply ignores. The pay is so good, the benefits are unbelievable, and she’s free of her cloying job and living in London. She meets three of the couple's four charming daughters, as the oldest is away during the week in an exclusive boarding school. When the second oldest whispers desperately in her ear as she departs to close her affairs in London that “The ghosts wouldn’t like it," Rowan ignores her as being a highly imaginative eight-year-old. By the end of her first week on the job, she is jailed for murder.

The tale is told through a desperate letter that Rowan writes to a Mr. Wrexham after being in prison for three months. She pleads her innocence, claiming she did not kill that child. She has fired her first lawyer, who is convinced that she did.

Caveat: When you first open the book, be sure to read the first four pages. Each contains a single, brief, incomplete sentence, dated September 2017. They are the false starts to Rowan’s appeal to Mr. Wrexham of her innocence. What follows is a page-turning, painful, chilling supplication of what really happened. Twisty and surprising, as entertaining as it is heartrending, THE TURN OF THE KEY is a book you will not want to put down.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on August 9, 2019

The Turn of the Key
by Ruth Ware