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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 (21,782)

  • 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❤️

  • Julia H.

    Odenton, MD

    A modern take on “The Turn of the Screw.” This story tapped into my own nightmares - a house that’s forcing the nanny out, strange noises / shadows at night, poorly behaved kids, & a child’s death.

  • Jennifer K.

    Tulsa , OK

    Another great book by this amazing writer this book you just couldn't put down it really grabs you and doesn't let go until the shocking conclusion a definite must read i absolutely love the way she writes

  • Emilia J.

    Shady Side, MD

    I got this book as an add on and I’m so glad I did, I loved it more than my actual BOTM. I love the horror genre but no other book has ever actually made me feel nervous/scared the way this one did❤️

  • Kim D.

    Upper Darby , PA

    This was my first book by Ruth Ware and it won’t be my last. I was completely hooked from the beginning and couldn’t put the book down!! I highly recommend it!! The ending had me saying holy crap!!!!!

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