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The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key

Repeat author

Ruth Ware is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include One by One and The It Girl and The Lying Game and The Woman in Cabin 10.

by Ruth Ware

Excellent choice

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Quick take

From the author of The Lying Game and The Woman in Cabin 10, a jumpy read that feels like putting together a puzzle.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder



When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Turn of the Key.
The Turn of the Key

7th September 2017
HMP Charnworth

Dear Mr. Wrexham,

You have no idea how many times I’ve started this letter and screwed up the resulting mess, but I’ve realized there is no magic formula here. There is no way I can make you listen to my case. So I’m just going to have to do my best to set things out. However long it takes, however much I mess this up, I’m just going to keep going and tell the truth.

My name is . . . And here I stop, wanting to tear up the page again.

Because if I tell you my name, you will know why I am writing to you. My case has been all over the papers, my name in every headline, my agonized face staring out of every front page—and every single article insinuating my guilt in a way that falls only just short of contempt of court. If I tell you my name, I have a horrible feeling you might write me off as a lost cause and throw my letter away. I wouldn’t entirely blame you, but please—before you do that, hear me out.

I am a young woman, twenty-seven years old, and as you’ll have seen from the return address above, I am currently at the Scottish women’s prison HMP Charnworth. I’ve never received a letter from anyone in prison, so I don’t know what they look like when they come through the door, but I imagine my current living arrangements were pretty obvious even before you opened the envelope.

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Why I love it

Whenever I pick up a Ruth Ware book, I’m reminded why she’s such a star in the over-crowded field of psychological thriller writing. There’s nothing better than an author you can absolutely rely on to deliver clever plotting and tight writing, and for me, Ruth Ware is the real deal. Her new thriller is just brilliant.

I love a book that starts with the ending, and that’s what we get in The Turn of the Key. The novel opens with Rowan, a nanny, writing to a lawyer to explain why the charge leveled against her—the murder of a child in her care—is wrong, despite how guilty she looks. Through these letters, we then see the story unfold: how Rowan—who we somehow don’t quite trust—applied for a job in a remote smart house, how she buried her secrets, and how her life became a nightmare that ended in murder.

Full of genuinely creepy moments, this novel—a clever play on the classic The Turn of the Screw—has hints of a ghost story played out with modern technology. Each page crackles with claustrophobic tension as we follow twist after turn until the breathtaking finale. This is one of those books that doesn’t announce how clever it is, but once you’ve finished, you’ll find yourself turning plot points over and over in your head. And boy, does that ending pack an emotional punch. Now do what I did: Grab this book, grab a coffee, and lose yourself in this story for the day. You won’t regret it!

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Member ratings (21,887)

  • Amanda S.

    Cedar Grove, WI

    Wow!!I was very taken aback by this story. I feel as though i should have seen the plot coming but was thoroughly surprised at every turn. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ very well written, and a wonderfully twisted end❤️

  • Melanie R.

    Laurys Station, PA

    Another AMAZING whodunnit by Ruth Ware. This is the 3rd or 4th book of hers that I’ve read and she has yet to drop the ball. This is a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for me. Pick up a copy, you won’t regret it!

  • Nia V.

    Fairhope, AL

    Was excited to read another book by Ware after reading “In a Dark, Dark Wood”. “The Turn of the Key” is better! It’s an absolute page-turner!! Interesting characters and the ending was mind-boggling!

  • Mathea C.

    Vancouver, WA

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Wow! This is the type of book you think about when you're not reading. I couldn't wait to get to the end. Dark, mysterious, well written. Seems like something spooky but the truth is even better!

  • Jessica K.

    West Des Moines, IA

    This is the first book I’ve read by this another and I’ve already ordered all the other ones she’s written. Always wanted to keep reading but I have to say the ending wasn’t my fav. bit still good.

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