Reading Matters

British thriller gets going a little late

I don’t usually read mysteries. But I couldn’t resist the look of this one. The advance review copy of Ruth Ware’s “In a Dark, Dark Wood” arrived in a black slip case with a marvel of a cover inside -- a lacy web of silvery winter branches against a dark, dark sky. I couldn’t wait to dip in.

Was it worth the time?

Well, yes, especially if you enjoy learning the latest British slang for this and that.

A “hen,” by the way, is a bachelorette party, and that’s where our heroine Lenora agrees to go -- in Northumberland -- against her better instincts. The bride-to-be is her former bestfriend, Clare, who usually gets what she wants. The two have been out of touch for so long that Lenora, a London-based crime writer, doesn’t even know who Clare is marrying.

Oh, no! It’s James, Clare tells her the day she arrives. James is Lenora’s old beau who absolutely crinolated her heart when he dumped her via text. Also on hand is Nina, a physician, who becomes Lenora’s confidante during the weekend. And Tom, a pale character, and Flo, a boorish and manipulative gal, who arranged the “hen” for Clare.

The weekend is a struggle for everyone. No reception for the cell phones or land line. One party-goer, worried about the baby she left with her husband, exits early. Lenora hangs in, miserable, her only solace going for cold, cold runs in the dark, dark woods. And nothing they eat all weekend appeals to me at all.

Trouble is, the true action doesn’t crank up until page 167 (book is 307 pages) when, at last, we see someone with a shotgun. From there, “In a Dark, Dark Wood” grips, grips, grips.

Bring on the bear,” an old creative writing professor used to bellow at the class. I wish Ruth Ware had. Sooner.

I still found Ware’s novel more appealing than “The Girl on a Train,” by Paula Hawkins, another British writer.