31 Days of Spooky Reads: A twisty retelling of ‘Turn of the Screw’

The Turn of the Key

As usual, Ruth Ware wraps you around her twisty finger and pulls you in against your will. The Turn of the Key is reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw, where Rowan takes up a live-in nanny position for a family of four children, ages 18mo – 14 yrs.

The home they live in is a smart house, with cameras and speakers and panels everywhere. Rowan feels both relieved and agitated at all the technology, and I felt the same while reading.

Rowan learns that 4 nannies have come and gone in the last 14 months, leaving her vaguely questioning, why?

Rowan is imprisoned for the murder of the one of the children in her care. She claims she didn’t do it. But that leaves the question: who did?

Day one of the job, both parents are gone and leave their three children (the eldest is away at boarding school) with Rowan for a work conference.

Rowan quickly learns that the 8-year-old, Maddie, has a dark, twisted personality, and Ellie, the 5-year-old, is sweet but under her older sister’s persuasion.

Soon, things start happening that make Rowan question her sanity. Did she really lose the front door key? What about all those creaking sounds from above her, even though her room is at the top floor?

And what about that hidden closet/attic she finds behind the mysterious locked door in her room, filled with strange writing that says i hate you, i haite you, the ghosts hate you…

And who is Jack, the groundskeeper/handyman? Why does he always happen to be around when things get really bad, and always happens to have the solution handy?

And why is there a locked poisoned garden that the children know how to get into?

I loved the tension built in the book. I believed Rowan was innocent, but that left me constantly questioning everything. My suspicion landed on a few characters, but the real killer I didn’t expect.

A couple things threw me off, however, like why the parents were absent. Sandra, the mother, seems to really care for her children, and yet she has no idea what they’re up to and leaves her children entrusted in Rowan’s care, a woman she’s met at a single interview. Even with all the cameras she can use to spy on the house with, it still seems like she’s not quite a present mother. However, she’s career-driven and I do believe she loves her children.

The father seems like a creepy perv, which he is. Thankfully, he didn’t factor too much into the storyline, though he does play a major emotional role in Rowan’s behaviors.

Overall, a good mystery.

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