It’s all in the name: A review of “In a Dark, Dark Wood”


After receiving a Barnes & Noble gift card (it’s the gift that keeps on giving), I eagerly began my search for another book. Now, I had just finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I do recommend it by the way) and I was craving something with a similar complexity, so I searched under “books like these” and found three books. Two were by Gillian Flynn, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, and the other was In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is somewhat predictable. If you’re a movie-lover like I am, you can tell after awhile what details are important to the plot. Foreshadowing is obvious to us. However, this time, I didn’t catch it. I read too fast…partly because I was being sucked into the book.

Before I get to my mistake, let me introduce you to the book; it’s told through flashbacks. Our protagonist is Leonora “Nora” Shaw has woken up in the hospital with her memory shot. The story plays out as she attempts to remember what happened to her, and all the while, she knows something went terribly wrong.

Nora was invited to the hen party (bachelorette party to us in the United States) of her former childhood best friend, Clare Cavendish. It had been 10 years since they lost touch. Nora a.k.a. Lee (Clare’s nickname for Nora) along with five others gather in the classic horror shack: a house of glass windows plopped in the middle of the woods during winter. Have you ever watched, “When a Stranger Calls”? Well, that house is very similar to the one in the book.

The three strangers: Tom, Flo, and Melanie

  • Tom is a playwright and
  • Flo is the current best friend, and very loyal to Clare…too loyal.
  •  Melanie is a new mom, and is constantly worried about the kid. She leaves the glass house before the twist happens.

Nora’s only ally: Nina

  • A sharp-tongued, cigarette smoking, glorious woman. (She was my favorite character, if you can’t tell.)
  • She agrees to go, only if Nora does.

And finally, the bride herself, Clare.

  • She seems sweet and friendly, but something is off about her.

Isolation. Check. Illusion of privacy. Check. Crazy best friend? Check. Bring on the murder!

Now we have Nora stuck in a house filled with strangers and no cell reception. We see her constantly correcting Clare and Flo when they call her Lee, Clare’s old nickname for her, and we are told that only one person has ever called her Leo.  The plot continues with the group bonding over drugs, drinks, a Ouija board, and a shooting range. It ends in disaster.


I really did enjoy the book, and when I really really enjoy something, I read fast. Let me tell ya, those Harry Potter books were done within a couple hours. The twist was unexpected. Ware leads you on and throws red herrings at you left and right. I laughed out loud when I finally finished it because of how stunned I was.

So, what did I miss? Well, it’s all in the name.

In chapter one, the first word Leonora speaks is her nickname “Nora”. She is correcting the woman in the hospital because she doesn’t want to be known as the person she was. You see, with Clare, she was Lee: the beloved best friend, but Lee was also in Clare’s shadow. There was nothing that Clare couldn’t get. That was until James.

With James she was Leo, strong and confident; she became the star of her own life. Leo was in love.

As I read and paged deeper into Leonora’s story, and discovered what had drove James and Leo apart, I missed the key to everything: a single text message sent to “Lee” instead of “Leo”.

If only Nora would’ve caught it, but then this story wouldn’t exist.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. I would recommend picking it up!

If you would like me to make a spoiler-free reviews instead, please let us know!

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