Thrillers and ghost stories and murder mysteries never used to be a genre of book I had much interest in. Mostly because I’m a massive wimp – I can read something scary in March and still be having nightmares in December; I saw the stage play of The Woman in Black when I was 14 and still can’t think of it without shuddering. And although I’m still just as much of a scardey-cat, that hasn’t changed with age, I can kind of start to see why people like thrillers and horror films. There’s something almost addictive about that rush of adrenaline you get from being scared. I first experienced this reading The Girl on the Train and since then I’ve been trying to find another book that will equal that level of tension and suspense.
In a Dark Dark Wood had very subtly lodged itself in my brain as a book I’d quite like to read from seeing it featured on Instagram, without having the faintest idea what it was about. Although it’s pretty obvious from the cover that it’s a thriller; another book riding on that Gone Girl bandwagon.
The book follows Nora, who out of the blue receives an invitation to the hen party of her childhood best friend who she hasn’t spoken to since she left school, whose wedding she hasn’t even been invited to. Mostly out of curiosity Nora heads to Cumbria to spend a weekend in a secluded cottage reconnecting with Clare and facing her own past. But strange things are happening beneath the surface, and when tragedy strikes was it really an unfortunate accident?
The premise is all very Agatha Christie – six people who don’t know each other very well stranded in a remote house during a snow storm. Although I doubt Agatha Christie had ever even heard of the concept of a hen party.
What this book does really well is the suggestion of something scary, the subtle hints that there’s something sinister in the background and then just leaving your imagination to fill in the rest. Just the thought of that massive house in the middle of nowhere, with walls of huge windows that come night time anyone could be looking in through… well, I need to stop talking about it or I won’t be sleeping tonight. And once they’d introduced the mysterious footsteps in the snow I knew I could not read this book on my own. So I took myself off to Costa to finish it where there were other people around to remind me that 98% of life is not remotely creepy or scary.
This turned out to be completely unnecessary because the ending, as is almost always the case with me, did not live up to my expectations. I think my standards are just too high. I’m trying to teach myself to not be quite so obsessive, not to need have every single detail of every mystery I read resolved, but perfectionism is one of my most deeply ingrained characteristics so it’s a struggle. Because I think if I could just get over the slightly disappointing conclusion, I’d have really enjoyed this book.
And they do reference Tess of the D’Urbervilles quite a lot, which is a sure-fire way to win points with me.