Many people (to their regret) have incautiously said yes to a friend’s invitation to a stag or hen night. They can be pretty grisly occasions, but thankfully few of them have the grim consequences of the gathering in RUTH WARE’S In a Dark, Dark Wood. Ware’s central character Leonora (who narrates the novel) finds there is a price to be paid for her deviation from her generally antisocial behaviour when she accepts such an invitation. The event brings up betrayals and guilt from the past, and a Frank Lloyd Wright-style house in an isolated forest proves to be a recipe for catastrophe. While functioning as an exemplary crime novel, there is much keenly observed social comedy here (not a million miles from the acerbic work of William Trevor), and spiky characterisation is a particularly strong suit for Ware. Crime readers may have more than enough on their plates at the moment, but there is no ignoring this provocative writer.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is published by Harvill Secker

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