The Turn of the Key

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is a psychological suspense thriller that has unpredictable plot twists that keep coming. Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House excited to be a nanny to a family full of girls in Scotland. However, she soon becomes aware of noises and happenings that are unexplained. She delves deeper into the mystery to see what is happening but soon realizes that she might be in far deeper than she had anticipated. Highly recommend. Read and enjoy!
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I listened to the audiobook and it was very well done. The narrator added to the creepy atmosphere and suspense as the story unfolded. I found it to be a compulsive read and would highly recommend to mystery/suspense fans.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a digital review copy of this book.
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I just wasn't a fan of this one by Ruth Ware. The pacing was off, the ending was blah. Her writing is good, it spooked me at times - made me a little nervous going to bed. But, the story just wasn't there. The first twist was very obvious from the beginning and the second didn't really matter much in the end. Also seemed a little too similar to The Death of Mrs. Westaway in some ways. She might need to focus on writing good books rather than just churning out one a year.
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Okay, didn't love it. Opening had too much techy stuff and was quite slow. This was my first experience with Ruth Ware. I will try her again. For me it lacked suspense. The writing was fine but didn't pull me in. Characters were pretty dull. Storytelling good enough.
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Twenty-something nanny Rowan Caine hadn't even been looking for a new job when she came across the ad seeking a live-in nanny for a well-to-do family in Scotland. Applying out of curiosity, Rowan finds herself no less than astounded to suddenly be standing, weeks later, in the entry hall of Heatherbrae House, way out in the desolate Scottish Highlands, for her in-person interview with mother Sandra Elincourt. The home itself - an odd juxtaposition of half Victorian architecture forcibly conjoined with modernized technology by Sandra's absentee husband Bill, turning the house into its own app-run "smart home" - is beautiful yet oddly unsettling at the same time, as are the rumors that the reason the last four nannies either fled or left their posts with no notice is because the house is haunted. Rowan is too sensible to believe in ghosts, the pay is ridiculously good, and she seems to mesh well with the children - eight-year-old Maddie, Ellie who's five, and infant Petra - right off, so is nothing less than thrilled when, a few weeks later, she lands the job and permanently moves into Heatherbrae House with the help of the hunky handyman staying above the defunct stables. But almost soon as she's installed upstairs, Sandra and Bill leave town on business and the children start to show very different sides to themselves than they displayed the night Rowan met them. Worse, each night Rowan is now kept awake by the distinct sounds of someone pacing upstairs, the floorboards creaking to a rhythm Rowan is soon will surely drive her mad. The problem? Rowan's room is on the top floor of Heatherbrae House, with no attic and just the tiled roof of the house above her; there is no room above her for anyone to be pacing in. Over the next several days the strange incidents will only increase in the house, Rowan seeking to connect with the children even as she leans more and more about Heatherbrae House's sinister history, and grows increasingly alarmed for her own safety, as well as that of the children. The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware's fifth novel - though my introduction to her work - and opens with Rowan in prison for murder, one of the children (we don't know who) dead, the novel told in letters she's desperately writing to a high-profile attorney Rowan is hoping will take on her case. And while for me there were times when the story kind of bogged down in the middle third of the novel, with not a lot going on (though Rowan's growing paranoia does keep the suspense building, in a passive sort of way), the last third of the novel ... particularly the last few pages of the book, where the loose ends of the story are tied up in a manner that literally had made my jaw drop open and my chest hurt ... are some of the best, most perfectly/deceptively simple writing I've ever read; even guessing what was coming a couple pages prior, finishing the novel just left me sitting there stunned, as if one of the fuses in my head had blown and I had to wait for some back-up generator to kick on. A four-star book, just because of the slight lagging in the middle, easily bumped up a half-star by that unexpected, haunting, brain-slayer of an ending.  4.5/5 stars

NOTE: I received a free ARC of this title from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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I've read a few by Ruth Ware and I think The Turn of the Key is the best so far.  Such a creative storyline, with intriguing characters, creepy atmosphere, and a clever plot line.  The format of the book - told as a letter to a solicitor, was very unique and well done.  This book is wonderful, very entertaining, and definitely worth the read. 
Thank you to NetGalley and Scout Press/Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title.
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Ruth Ware just keeps getting better and better! This was a fantastically creepy story about a nanny who is accused of killing one of the young girls she's in charge of. But did she? And what about the strange occurrences that keep happening in the isolated old house? No spoilers here, but a Pro Tip: Do NOT read right before going to sleep at night. #Nightmares
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This was well on the way to being one of my favorite Ware books up until the very end. As much as I hate to knock it down for the ending, finishing on a disappointing note can really kill a reading experience. However, it really was still great. I wish I had read The Turn of the Screw before, because from what I've read, it's an interesting modern homage to James's work. And I mean modern. Rowan's new private nanny job is at an isolated Scottish home that looks historic from the front but is actually outfitted with all of the latest smart home technology. (Side note: while most of the technology seems plausible, I wonder how much of it actually exists already. Also, I loved the name of the system, Happy. Very... ironic?)

As usual, the atmosphere was incredibly creepy, one of her best yet. The (limited) characters were mostly well done, though I especially appreciated her writing of the young girls trying to cope with yet another new adult coming to take care of them while their parents disappeared again, prioritizing work over their family. Their innocence, anger, and little personalities in general struck an authentic note. The plotting was fairly intricate, for a book with such limited setting and characters. There was one major twist at the end that I halfway saw coming, but I'm still not entirely sure how I felt about it - it might have taken away from the story. The ending, while abrupt, really surprised me—and I was really irritated with myself about that, because looking back, it was so blatantly obvious what the solution to the "mystery" was.

Still, a really great book from Ware, and looking back, I'm going ahead and bumping my 3 to a 4.
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Wow!  I think Ruth Ware has found her niche in the gothic feeling dark suspense genre.  I went into this book feeling questionable as I personally did not care for one of her past books very much.  The Turn of the Key however, I couldn't put it down!  I loved the characters, the guessing, the crazy smart house and the locked garden.  There was so much good about this book!
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Wow this is definitely going to be one of my favorite thrillers of the year!!!!  

I love the incorporation of the smart home. Reminds me a lot of my fiancé and him trying to automate everything. 

The pacing was spot on and I was kept curious the entire time as the web untangled. I was able to read it in one sitting!
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Written as a letter to her lawyer certainly added a bit of a twist as we are only privy to one side of the story for a while. Ms. Ware did an excellent job at building the suspense for me and I was surprised at the ending. Overall, I thought it was a very good book. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley and the publisher and this is my honest opinion.
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On the one hand, I enjoyed The Turn of the Key.  On the other, there were too many instances that forced me to stretch my believability.  

The writing style, a letter to Rowan’s solicitor, was smooth and made for an easy read, although the story did begin to be monotonous.  I never did connect with any of the characters.  Maybe I’m too much of a cynic, but I just wasn’t buying into the premise of ‘something spooky’ going on; it was lacking in suspense.  Subjects like the secret garden, the previous nannies, and the house itself were not very mysterious at all.  

Rowan was definitely the queen of stupid decisions, like leaving the kids alone in the house that she was so desperately afraid of.    I wish I had a dollar for every time Rowan said things like, “I’m not proud of that” or “It was deliberate self-sabotage” or “But that was stupid, of course”  … and so many more disparaging – but true – remarks.  

Then there was the drinking to the point of drunkenness – with kids in the house to take care of – and then setting out to bed the handyman/chauffer, followed closely by her huge regrets for doing so.  She was bumbling, not too likable, and at times annoying.

Perhaps the ending was a little abrupt, but that was okay since the story had begun to drag.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Turn of the Key.
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Rowan accepts a nanny position in a remote area of Scotland. When she arrives, she is completely taken in by the “smart” house, the beautiful scenery, the enormous salary and the seemingly perfect family. The smart house is completely CREEPY! No privacy whatsoever…among other things..and the “perfect family”….oh no! Not even close!

This book is twisted! Between the completely wired, gothic house, the weird owners, the poison garden and other creepy issues, this story had me on the edge of my seat. Which is shocking…I usually don’t like this format. It is told in letters to a solicitor by the nanny. Oh, did I mention the nanny is sitting in jail accused of killing one of her charges? Well! She is!

The only reason this book is not getting 5 stars is the ending. The end of this story does not fit the build up. It is rushed and completely unsatisfying. But, do not let that stop you! It is still a great read! You do not want to miss this sinister tale!
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This was my favorite book of Ruth Ware's to date. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. The plot was original - it was a great book!
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Ruth Ware does it again! I have read every book written by Ware, with Woman in Cabin 10 being my favorite. The Turn of the Key was written in Ware’s signature style: creepy atmospheric drama that grabs you from the beginning and won’t let you go until the final page. THE TURN OF THE KEY is a great read and a definite page turner. However, it will take the place as my new favorite Ware novel. 
What I loved:
•	The things going bump in the night
•	The house and gardens as the setting and also used as another character element 
•	The gothic spookiness
What I did not love:
•	The ENDING! Too ambiguous and anticlimactic. I wanted more!  
With all that being said, the book is wonderful, very entertaining, and definitely worth the read. I would highly recommend! 4 stars! Many thanks to NetGalley and Scout Press/Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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3.5 stars rounded down to 3.

Thanks to NetGalley and  Scout Press for providing an advanced reader copy of The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Main Characters

Rowan -  “Time to shed my doubts and step into the role of Rowan the Perfect Nanny.” Rowan is constantly struggling against her own inner nature to be the perfect nanny for the three girls.

Maddie - 8 years old “Maddie was a woman with a plan, just like I was. The question was, what was it?” From the start, Maddie is tryin to scare Rowan away. The question is, why?

Ellie - 5 years old “Her eyes were wide, and I could see in them a kind of desperation to be believed.” Ellie, struggling with the competing forces in the house, wanting to be loved but also wanting to please.

Jack - The handyman with secrets of his own or is he as genuine as he seems?

Sandra - the Mom who so desperately wants to be with her children but finds herself pulled away by her career.

The House - “The beauty and luxury of this house, and the seeping poison underneath the high-tech facade. The solid Victorian wood of a closet door, with its polished brass escutcheon—and the cold, rank smell of death that breathes out of the hole”

The Garden - a run down garden, full of poisonous plants and the goddess of Death.

The Brief Synopsis

“Don’t come here,” she whispered, still refusing to look at me. “It’s not safe.” “It’s not safe?” I gave a little laugh. “Maddie, what do you mean?” “It’s not safe,” she repeated, with a little angry sob, shaking her head harder so that her words were almost lost. “They wouldn’t like it.”

Rowan, a London nanny, has been hired to look after three little girls, Maddie, Ellie, and Petra at Heatherbrae, a modernized Victorian nightmare of a mansion deep in the Scottish countryside. Even during the interview, Rowan feels the wrongness of the house and is warned by Maddie that she wouldn’t be welcomed.

Once hired, Rowan is plagued by strange noises in the night, weird disturbances during the day, the house systems going haywire, a garden full of deadly poisons, the house staff that acts suspicious and doesn’t trust her, and the pranks of little children. “It was only a few days since I’d turned up—note-perfect in my rendition of Rowan the Perfect Nanny, in her tweed skirt and neatly buttoned cardigan. I looked far from perfect now. I was wearing crumpled jeans, and my sweatshirt was stained with Petra’s breakfast. I looked much closer to the person I really was, as if the real me was leaking out of the cracks in the facade, taking over.”

In the end, a little girl lies dead while Rowan is in prison. “I didn’t kill her. Which means someone else did. And they are out there,” Rowan implores from prison. The mystery becomes who or what did.

My Review

Until the last 50 or so pages, I really enjoyed reading The Turn of the Key. It is a gripping tale full of mystery and interesting characters. The terror of the house and the ghost kept me spell bound as I read, wanting to learn more about what happened to Rowan and the children.

At the end, I was disappointed. Rather than continuing to explore the supernatural, the book ends with a disappointing, predictable resolution and the grand reveal of Rowan’s true motive seems like more of an after thought rather than a fully fleshed out reason for her actions.

3.5 stars for engaging story with great characters. Rounded down to 3 stars for a disappointing ending.
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Thank you #netgalley and publisher for giving me the chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

I found this book to be very slow paced. It does not pick up until about the last 100 pages.
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I first fell in love with Ruth Ware when I read The Woman in Cabin 10. While Cabin 10 will always be my favorite, The Turn of the Key is a very close second. I loved the concept of the book and the idea of using technology as a sort of "villian." This book was definitely a slow build for me, but the two major twists at the end made it worth it. While I predicted the second twist, the first was a total surprise, and I love when authors surprise me! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my free e-book in exchange for my honest review!
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The Turn of the Key plunges the reader into a spiraling mystery. It opens with a series of increasingly fraught letters.

Dear Mr. Wrexham,


I know you don’t know me but please, please you have to help me.

The second letter contains a clue; he or she is writing from HMP aka Her Majesty’s Prison Charnworth.

Dear Mr. Wrexham,


You don’t know me, but you may have seen coverage of my case in the newspapers. The reason I am writing to you is to ask you please

The missive ends abruptly, but on September 4, 2017, the prisoner writes again.

I hope that’s the right way to address you. I have never written to a barrister before.


The first thing I have to say is that I know this is unconventional. I know I should have gone via my solicitor, but he’s

The agitated prose ends midsentence. Then, a day later, “Are you a father? An uncle? If so, let me appeal …” And lastly, “Dear Mr. Wrexham, Please help me. I didn’t kill anyone.” How could anyone not want to find out what lies behind these agonized pleas? Ruth Ware has us in the palm of her hand. [NB: Here’s a general explanation the barrister/solicitor dichotomy: “The basic difference between barristers and solicitors is that a barrister mainly defends people in court and a solicitor mainly performs legal work outside court.”]

On September 7, 2017, the floodgates open; the writer decides to “make” Mr. Wrexham aware of every detail.

I am a young woman, twenty-seven years old, and as you’ll have seen from the return address above, I am currently at the Scottish women’s prison HMP Charnworth. I’ve never received a letter from anyone in prison, so I don’t know what they look like when they come through the door, but I imagine my current living arrangements were pretty obvious even before you opened the envelope.


What you probably don’t know is that I’m on remand.


And what you cannot know is that I’m innocent.

She ruefully says that everyone in prison is innocent, “according to them, anyway.” Finally, we find out the crime of which she is accused.

I am the nanny in the Elincourt case, Mr. Wrexham.


And I didn’t kill that child.

Is there a more horrific crime than the murder of a child? That it’s a nanny—someone hired for the specific purpose of caring for children—makes it that much worse. But if the nanny is innocent, who killed the child?

The prisoner realizes she has left her middle-class English background far behind when she sees herself in a mirror with “scraped back” hair, “eyes like chips of granite,” and a “hard and white” set face. Her shock at her resemblance to her fellow inmates propels her into action. Truth is her only ally, so she starts with the advert, a “busy family of four children” wants an experienced live-in nanny. But the household is in the remote Scottish highlands, and the nanny must be prepared to stay there on her own. The salary is very generous—£55,000 per annum (a little less than $70,00 U.S.) with eight weeks’ holiday.

I read it through once, and then again, my heart beating faster, the second time, because it was perfect. It was almost too perfect.

How can this job measure up? She realizes something is amiss—what’s with the “dizzying, fabulous salary?”

That should have been my first warning signal, you know. The salary. Because it was stupidly generous. I mean it would have been generous even for London, even for a live-out nanny.

If she has misgivings, why does she pursue the job? Ware piles on details that create a feeling of inevitably. The applicant is not happy at her Little Nippers nursery job where she works in the baby room with “pushy, faddy parents, with their fucking fabric nappies and their homemade—” She stops writing and says she’s just letting off steam. Still. Her roommate has been off traveling for months. A desired promotion didn’t materialize. She’s “not very good at failing,” so she never aims high in order to avoid pain. She had the grades for university, but she didn’t even apply. The nanny job seems ideal—it will get her out of her “comfort zone,” perhaps provide a new start in life.

She comes across as needy, even rather desperate—a lonely singleton. She works up her CV, applies, and then waits. Interestingly, she fudges the application a tad. “The only problem was the driving license. But I pushed the issue aside for the moment.” She wants an interview “so much.” Finally, Sandra Elincourt emails her.

Hi, Rowan! Thank you so much for your application, and apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I have to admit, we were slightly taken by surprise at the volume of applications. Your CV was very impressive, and we would like to invite you to interview.

Mrs. Elincourt says Heatherbrae “is an old building and has had no more than the usual number of deaths and tragedies in its past, but for some reason these have resulted in some local tales of hauntings, etc.” The tales have resonated with her “recent nannies, to the extent that four have resigned in the past fourteenth months.” A revolving door of nannies, with no one staying for more than 3 or 4 months—why doesn’t Rowan see a red flag?

Off she goes to Scotland where, after a day of travel, she arrives at a remote, “dusky platform.” No one is there to pick her up. Five, 10, 15, 20 minutes pass before a man approaches her, Jack Grant, the Elincourt’s odd-job man. He takes her to Heatherbrae, which “exuded warmth and luxury and comfort.” Or does it?

Rowan is anxious to meet her potential employer.

Instantly something felt off-kilter. But what was it? The door in front of me was traditional enough, paneled wood painted a rich glossy black, but something seemed wrong, missing, even. It took me a second to realize what it was. There was no keyhole.

And “there was no knocker either.” She sees a “ghostly illuminated icon in the shape of a bell,” hears a chime from inside, and finally, a voice booms out, “Rowan! Hello!” Jack and Sandra Elincourt are architects, and according to Jack, Bill is “into technology.” That’s an understatement. Rowan finds out there’s “constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house,” and worse, the omnipresent technology often goes on the fritz.

Sandra is polished and professional, but her need for a nanny is obvious. She’s relieved to hear that Rowan is “firmly single.” With subtle strokes, Ruth Ware paints a picture of ratcheting tension. When Sandra says, “So … no ties to London then,” a reader might be tempted to tell Rowan to leave while she can. But then, we wouldn’t find out how a “perfect” job with a “dizzying, fabulous” salary could go so wrong. The Turn of the Key is a tour de force—Ware is writing at the height of her powers.
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The Turn of the Key was good, it didn't knock my socks off, but I enjoyed it. I love a book that starts at the end of the story, so it started off strong for me. The middle was a slow burn, I prefer something a bit more fast paced. This book definitely had it's truly creepy moments and I loved that. Towards the end of the book the pacing picked up and I couldn't put it down until I finished. I enjoyed the ending. I wish I would have cared more about Rowan or the other characters though. I think my rating would have been bumped to 4 if I had been more connected to them.
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