Reviews for The turn of the key

Library Journal
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Ware demonstrated a flair for the modern gothic in The Death of Mrs Westaway; here the author puts her spin on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. The classic tropes—a nanny left alone with two children in a remote house, a bitter housekeeper, a mysterious caretaker, unexplained noises, a locked door that's never been opened—are combined with 21st-century creepiness. The house runs on smart technology, which can be activated by anyone with the right passcodes. As Rowan Caine explains in letters to a lawyer written from prison, she took the position as live-in nanny to the Elincourts to get out of a demoralizing job and a difficult roommate situation. The pay was generous and the two young girls were well behaved. But when the parents left immediately after she arrived, the girls were a lot less amiable, and the home's smart controls were wonky. Temperatures would drop in the middle of the night or alarms would blare with no way of shutting them off. When Rowan starts hearing noises behind the locked door in her bedroom, she wonders if there's more here than meets the eye. VERDICT Ware hits another one out of the park. Fans of hers or anyone with a taste for the disturbing will stay up late devouring this.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Ware (The Death of Mrs. Westaway, 2018, etc.) channels The Turn of the Screw in her latest creepy mystery when a nanny takes a post at a haunted country house.Traveling to Heatherbrae House to interview for a nanny position, Rowan Caine finds a gorgeously redone Victorian mansion nestled in the remote Scottish moors. Sandra Elincourt is stylish and smart, and the girls seem sweet enough, though 8-year-old Maddie rings some alarm bells in Rowan's mind. So what if the last four nannies left under mysterious circumstances? Rowan knows she's where she belongseven when Maddie tries to warn her away, claiming that "the ghosts wouldn't like it" if she stays. On her first day, however, Bill Elincourt makes a pass at her, and then both parents leave on a business trip, planning to be gone for at least a week. Left alone with the three little girls, Rowan can't shake the feeling that there are other forces at work in the house. When strange noises begin to wake them all in the night, it seems like the house may indeed be haunted. What happened to those other nannies? Why is Maddie intent on getting Rowan fired? Why is there a garden of poison plants? And who wrote "We hate you" all over the attic walls? Ware excels at taking classic mystery tropes and reinventing them; her novels always feel appealingly anachronistic because while the technology is 21st century, there is something traditionally gothic about the settings, full of exaggerated luxury and seething dark corners. In this case, she reimagines the Victorian ghost story, with Henry James the most obvious influence not just on the plot, but also on the narrative frame, as the story actually takes the form of a letter written by Rowan to her solicitor as she sits imprisoned for murder. Regrettably, the novel's ending leaves a few too many loose ends while also avoiding the delicious ambiguity of its Victorian predecessors.Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Agatha Award finalist Edwin Hill is the author of Little Comfort.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw was successfully reworked as early as 1911 in Burnett's The Secret Garden and has morphed many times over since then into film, music, and many remarkable novels, including this one. Ware cleverly puts a high-tech spin on the tale's gothic foundations of spellbinding menace set in a remote cavernous mansion with mysterious locked doors and a spooky garden. In Ware's version, though, the garden is not just spooky but also poison. Rowan Caine stumbles across an online listing for a live-in nanny position with a seemingly charming family at Heatherbrae House in the magnificent Scottish Highlands. The staggering salary on offer should have warned Rowan that something might be amiss, but she couldn't resist. The house is rumored to be haunted and nightmarishly controlled by software ironically called the Happy App, whose malfunctions have nerve-shattering results. For Rowan, The sense of intrusion was indescribable, thanks to surveillance cameras and unseen speakers, not to mention the spectral sounds coming from the attic above her room. Her decline into resentment, fatigue, and terror is chronicled in the form of letters she writes while in prison awaiting trial for the murder of one of the children. Ware's James-like embroidery of the strange and sinister produces a Turn of the Screw with cellphones and Teslas that will enthrall today's readers. Much like its predecessor, the novel is occasionally mystifying, but it will not disappoint.--Jane Murphy Copyright 2019 Booklist

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Ware (The Death of Mrs. Westaway) parlays themes from Henry James's classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, into gripping suspense for the digital age. Ware's narrative also originates from after-the-fact correspondence and documents uncanny revelations from precocious children, an isolated mansion betokening abandonment amid luxury, and inklings of former dark goings-on. However, Ware imagines a more aspirational, imperfect nanny and cleverly exploits the mansion, Heatherbrae House, as an uneasy presence whose history, inexplicable noises, and intrusive security cameras engender fear and distrust. Visual disharmony inflicted by the home's recent, aggressive renovation even parallels identity issues of newly hired nanny Rowan, who has barely unpacked when her posh employers depart for a conference, leaving four daughters in her care and vital secrets (e.g., that previous nanny and the poisoning incident) unshared. Narrator Imogen Church, splendidly conveying Rowan's youth, heightening dread, and utter credibility, also delights as the disturbingly blithe voice of "Happy," software programmed to run Heatherbrae but which instead terrorizes the household with harrowing miscues like blasts of music in the wee hours—a "smart house" apparently gone rogue. VERDICT The only 21st-century question scarier than "Who can you trust?" is "Who else has the passcode?" Wholeheartedly recommended.—Linda Sappenfield, Round Rock P.L., TX