Harvill Secker | August 2019 | 352 pgs
I've read all of Ruth Ware's books (except The Death of Mrs Westaway) and I've to say she's at her best creating a gothic and creepy atmosphere. This book has a few of my favourite features: intrigue, suspense, an isolated remote location and an ambiguous hint of supernatural element.
So the book opens with our protagonist, Rowan Caine, writing a letter to a Mr Wrexham appealing for his help. Rowan is currently in a cell awaiting trial for murder and she thinks Mr Wrexham might help clear her name than the other lawyer they'd assigned for her. But she needs Mr Wrexham to first hear her story and the tale begins.
I'll try not to delve too much into the blurb since it's best to dive into this book "blind" and all I can say about this is, Rowan works as a live-in nanny for the Elincourts family at their luxurious 'smart' house they called Heatherbrae House. It is located at the Scottish Highlands and is rather remote, but the Elincourts have remodelled the old house from the predecessors and now it is equipped with all the modern conveniences of various technologies one could think of. Rowan is impressed by the overall package the Elincourts offer, but she definitely didn't anticipate that this dream house will soon become her worst nightmare.
I've to say the writing style and the suspense are the strength of this story. Ruth Ware surely knows how to build intensity well and this book already had my full attention right from the beginning despite the slow-burn and that I didn't really like any of the characters here. Rowan was a complicated character whom I couldn't really describe through words. She could be infuriating at times; yet there are moments that you couldn't help but to feel sorry for her, too. There are also certain scenarios which may make you think about her credibility; and all these factors are what most drawn me to the story.
Onto the weaknesses, truth be told, I think this story would be perfect if not of a certain factor leading to the ending. The ambiguity works well in my opinion though, but I felt that particular factor was a little letdown despite the huge buildup of intrigue from the beginning. Still, this was a compelling story which I found hard to resist; and last of all I'll never look at smart houses the same way ever again.
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