”The Turn of The Key” by Ruth Ware, Gallery/Scout, 2019, 352 pages
We readers meet 27-year-old Rowan Caine through a series of letters she’s writing from prison. She’s trying to persuade a lawyer to represent her. She has been accused of killing a child who was under her care, along with three others of which she’s the nanny.
In the letters, she describes how she came to be hired for the position after four other nannies left the job claiming supernatural events occurring in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
Rowan survives the interview with her employers, Sandra and Bill, and initially is thrilled with being hired at an astronomical salary. But she’s told that she’s nanny No. 5 in recent months.
Sandra and Bill leave to attend a faraway trade fair, leaving Rowan in charge of three small rebellious children. Maddie passes on tales of ghosts and resents being left with a new nanny whom she doesn’t know or trust. They’re not the well-behaved children she met at her interview.
This luxurious “smart” home in the Scottish Highlands is fitted out with all modern conveniences for this picture perfect family. Rowan sees it as malevolent with a technology app that controls everything from door locks, lights, music, even heat and air. She feels especially intimidated by cameras everywhere.
Rowan hears dragging footsteps above her — even though her room is on the top floor. She wasn’t aware there was any room above her. Rowan struggles to entertain the children, fixing picnics and sharing TV movies, but Ellie and Maddie know how to keep her at arm’s length.
Ruth Ware has structured an ingenious suspense narrative, dropping hints and secrets along the way. Just as the story seems to be winding down, another stunner alters what readers thought they had interpreted.
Ware is a master at signaling the presence of evil in the most mundane circumstances. Ware’s writing style will remind the reader of why she is called the Agatha Christie of our generation.