If you’ve yet to read Ruth Ware’s mystery novels, you are in for a treat! So far she’s written five standalone mystery novels that are all very different from each other but all sit firmly within the crime genre. I love that she always treats me to a different mystery than the previous one and always delivers on twists, centering women’s lives, and an engrossing read. I’m going to talk about Ware’s novels in order of publication, but by all means, you can read them in any order you’d like—they’re all standalones. I mean, I read her first novel after having read her other four novels and yes, it was still very good and worth the hype.
Imagine a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while invites you to her hen party (bachelorette party). That doesn’t sound so odd. Except add a cabin in the middle of nowhere and that your old friend is marrying your ex-boyfriend. What could go wrong? It’s a mystery/suspense in a house in the middle of the woods, so everything is going to go wrong! And did I mention it starts with a character in the hospital unable to remember what happened? In a Dark, Dark Wood is delicious fun.
This was my first read of Ware’s and it remains my favorite–because this time around, she leaned into Agatha Christie vibes. Lo Blacklock, who writes for a travel magazine, is having a hard time after a break-in at her apartment, so she thinks an assignment on a new luxury cruise will be a good change of scenery. And...it’s not! She swears she sees a woman’s body thrown overboard into the water, but no one else saw it. No one even has a record of a missing passenger. Is everyone on this cruise a suspect like in Clue, or can Lo not trust what she saw?
Here, Ware gives us a past-and-present story centered on a group of boarding school friends, now in their early thirties, who are reunited. Kate needs her three friends–Fatima (a Doctor, mother, wife), Isa (a mother of a six-month-old), and Thea (a casino dealer)–to drop everything and come to her. Why you may ask? Well, someone found a body while walking their dog. Now the women are lying to their families about going back for a reunion dinner when really they’re all trying to reconcile with the past and all their lies...
Related: The Best Locked-Room Mysteries
I love the basis for this suspenseful novel, which asks the question: “Would you pretend to be someone else for an inheritance?” Ever since her mom’s death, Hal has been struggling in a lot of ways, including not being able to pay the rent after taking over her mom’s tarot card reading business. Enter a bad loan decision and an even worse decision to pretend to be the intended recipient of an inheritance letter that was mistakenly addressed to her. As she nervously travels to Mrs. Westaway’s mansion, fearful she won’t be able to trick the family, maybe she should instead be fearful of the family...
And because, as I mentioned, Ware gives us something different every time, her last novel is a Gothic mystery set in a smart house. Think of a Victorian home that was upgraded with every smart gadget imaginable and run through an app. Sounds like a fun home to be a nanny in, right? Except maybe not so much when weird stuff starts happening, including being watched through the app! And the kids aren’t easy at all. And the parents just leave to go out of town before you’ve situated yourself. And did I mention that Rowan, the last nanny, is writing this novel as a letter to a lawyer from jail as she tries to plead her innocence in the murder of a child...
Being that Ware has published a new novel every year since 2015, I am looking forward to what she brings in 2020!
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Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor and Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.