The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fifth novel.

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

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

Writing to her lawyer from prison, Rowan struggles to explain the unravelling events that have 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 children, 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.

Rowan 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.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781508284116
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 37,346
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Ruth Ware worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and a press officer before settling down as a full-time writer. She now lives with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England. She is the #1 The New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @RuthWareWriter.

Reading Group Guide

This reader’s guide for The Turn of the Key includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book


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 nanny 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 unraveling 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.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. The book opens with Rowan Caine’s desperate plea for help from prison. If you received this letter as Mr. Wrexham, would you keep reading? Is there anything she could say that would persuade you to represent her?

2. Rowan describes the Elincourt estate in detail when she visits for her interview. What is your first impression of the house? What aspects were appealing or unappealing to you?

3. The interview with Sandra is standard but revealing. What do we learn about Rowan as she tries to come up with the perfect answers? Would you say Rowan is trustworthy? What do you learn about Sandra during this initial interaction?

4. Maddie, the second oldest girl, has an unexpected reaction to Rowan’s departure and makes a terrifying proclamation: “Don’t come here. It’s not safe” (p. 74). After everything Rowan saw and learned in the previous twenty-four hours, should she have heeded Maddie’s warning? Would you have listened to Maddie?

5. Rowan has a very negative first impression of Bill Elincourt and their relationship only gets worse from there. Why is her initial reaction so strong? How would you handle the ensuing harassment by an employer?

6. Sandra and Bill leave Rowan on her first day with the kids and she struggles to reign them all in. Discuss the kids’ behavior and how Sandra’s constant check-ins affect Rowan’s authority in the house. Look specifically at the interactions on page 131 and 158.

7. Rowan believes she is finally building a relationship with Maddie and Ellie when they show her their secret garden. But when their malicious intent is exposed, Rowan, Maddie, and Ellie all react intensely. Describe each of their reactions and the emotions behind them.

8. After the house goes haywire in the middle of the night, Rowan is sleep-deprived, on edge, and paranoid, and she jumps to several rash conclusions. Are these thoughts reasonable possibilities or delusions based in fear? Imagine how you might respond in her situation.

9. The Elincourts’ housekeeper, Jean McKenzie, immediately dislikes Rowan, but it seems to run deeper than their negative first encounter. Why? Could Jean be the one tormenting Rowan at night, as she suspects?

10. Rowan is deeply disturbed by the girl in Maddie’s drawing. “Tears were streaming down her face, her mouth was open in a despairing wail, and there were red scribbles of blood on her face and on her dress” (p. 228). What do you think it represents? Do you think Rowan should have addressed this directly?

11. When Jack and Rowan break into the attic, it is much worse than they expected. Discuss their ensuing conversation. What answers does Rowan have now and what questions remain? How do you think the doll head came to be in Rowan’s lap?

12. Rowan’s opinion of Jack changes repeatedly in her short time at Heatherbrae. He began as her confidant, became her lead suspect, and finally seemed to earn her trust. Do you think he is trustworthy? Why or why not?

13. We finally learn who Rachel Gerhardt is and of her personal connection to the family. Were there any clues that led you to suspect this before the big reveal? Do you believe Rachel’s version of events as she explains them to Mr. Wrexham?

14. In the last chapter, the truth of what happened to Maddie is finally revealed. How does Ellie’s letter align with Rachel’s retelling of that night? What, if any, questions remain?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The entire book is written as a letter to a defense attorney from prison. Discuss how this adds to or detracts from the story. How did you feel knowing a child would die from the beginning? Did it ruin the element of surprise or elevate the feeling of suspense?

2. We see Rachel in many high-pressure, stressful situations during her time at Heatherbrae House. How would you have described her character before learning the truth about her father? Did learning the truth change what you thought of her? Discuss.

3. Discuss Heatherbrae House and its many “amenities”. What it would be like to live in a house dependent on technology? Could you live there?

4. The story jumps from 2017 to 2019, when the letters to Mr. Wrexham and those from Jean McKenzie and Ellie are discovered. The man who found them reveals two important details. First, that Rachel never sent her pleas for help and second, that the truth they reveal no longer matters. Discuss why the letters never posted and what happened to Rachel in those two years.

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The Turn of the Key 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Anonymous 18 days ago
Masterly told story of suspense, revolving around a Victorian House in Scotland that had been the Former Doctor Grant's home. Dr. Grant is renoun for 2 things: his famous Garden of Poisons and the death of his 11 year old daughter. Into this house, moves a family with 4 girls ranging from 14years old to 18 months. The Girl's Parents are tech head geeks who specialize in Rehabbing Antique Structures. Elite and well to do, the rely on their staff at home to help them raise their daughters. But a string of Nannies abruptly leaving after short employment there, leads some to think the house must be haunted.Enter Rowen, a childcare worker in London who is just itching at a job far away from the unsatisfactory, menial work she is doing at a day care center. Will she be the nanny who the need?
DG_Reads 18 days ago
I received an uncorrected digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Gallery / Pocket Books and NetGalley for the chance to read and provide an honest review! Rating: 4.5 / 5 THE TURN OF THE KEY by Ruth Ware is written in the form of letters from the main character Rowan Caine to the man she is hoping will step in as her solicitor. She is writing from prison, accused in the death of a child in her care. The letter she is writing lays out her background and how she came to be in the position she's in. Rowan spots an ad for a too good to be true post as a live-in nanny and she is thrilled to be offered the position. The family lives at Heatherbrae House, a home far away in the Scottish Highlands with a Victorian feel, but also with all the modern touches of a "smart" home. The house is rumored to be haunted and several prior nannies have left unexpectedly as a result. Rowen shows up with impeccable references and an impressive CV, so she is hired on and dumped right into the work. There are four children (plus two dogs), one a teen away at school for most of the time and three young children who will be under her primary care 24/7 almost right away. She must figure out how to work the house and how to break through to the children who have had so much upheaval in their life. Alone with the kids, things start to go bump in the night. Mysterious footsteps from above Rowan's room, a 'smart' house which goes haywire in the middle of the night turning on all of the lights and noises it can muster. The children seem to be working against her and she has little to no contact with the outside world apart from the handyman. As things begin to go wrong, Rowan must even question whether he could be behind some of what is going on at Heatherbrae House. Rowan admits to her solicitor that she has made some mistakes. She admits to bad behavior herself, but she absolutely stands behind her claim of innocence. This was the perfect thriller to add to my weekend reading during the recent 24in48 Readathon. It kept me hooked, making it easy to stick with my reading at the end of a long day. Ruth Ware does an incredible job of building the suspense to the very last minute. The house is built up to be a very atmospheric, eerie place! She drops in hints and reveals twists as the story progresses, some of which were complete surprises to me. There were some elements of the very end of the book that felt a little abrupt to me and I think I would have liked some things fleshed out a bit more, but overall I really enjoyed this read! If you enjoy a book with a good haunted house feel and suspenseful thriller, then you will want THE TURN OF THE KEY on your shelf when it releases 8/6/2019!
Anonymous 17 days ago
fast read. ending is terrible. very frustrating
iiiireader 18 days ago
This is the first book I have read by Ruth Ware. I didn’t know what to expect but the book, in the end, was much more than I could have hoped for. There is so much psychological twists and turns, it was hard to try to think ahead to what the possible ending could be. Good thing, too, as I would never have expected what happened. Rowan Caine is writing her hoped-for lawyer from prison. In trying to explain how she is innocent, she starts from the beginning and gives detail so he can understand. Rowan is the new live-in child minder for four girls. The girls range in age from very young to a teenager. The salary should have warned her that this job was far from easy but, for her own reasons, it still made complete sense to leave family and friends in England and move to Scotland and an isolated manor house. What she discovers is very odd, sinister and yet, she is still brave enough to keep going where others have fled, literally after half a day on the job. Rowan is constantly trying to be the perfect nanny and not let any of her quirks show through. The letters from prison were a plot device that I really liked. It gave us a taste of the future but without giving too much of the past away. I will certainly be looking for other books by this author. I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
RMeckley 18 days ago
The title The Turn of the Key is a nod to the Henry James ghost story The Turn of the Screw. This new story, however, is updated in many ways, including the use of a smart house. The story is so good, but my best suggestion to potential readers is to know as little as possible about the book before you read it. Go into it cold for best effect. The plot is intricately woven, clever, mysterious, scary, and the writing is seamless, smoothly flowing, and so very good. I highly recommend The Turn of the Key! Thanks to NetGalley for providing a preprint of this book.
Anonymous 19 hours ago
Oh so captjvating! Very creepy in many parts, questions arkund most kf the characters, and a rralistic look at what a new nanny has tko handle. Coud hardly put the book dow.. others did not like the ending. But I thought it made total heartbrraming sense.
Anonymous 22 hours ago
This book has the awesome reveal like all of her books! Heart breaking but phenomenal
JennaBookish 1 days ago
The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware’s fifth novel, and I won’t lie… her work has been a little hit and miss for me. I was so looking forward to her prior book, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and ended up finding a bit predictable and boring. The Turn of the Key is Ware at her very best; I couldn’t put this book down! The basic plot points (not to mention the title) suggest that the book takes heavy inspiration from The Turn of the Screw, but the story has been thoroughly modernized, and knowing the ending of the classic novella won’t give away the ending of this one. Ware will keep you guessing. The book takes place mainly in the ancient house owned by the family that hires the protagonist, Rowan, as a nanny. The environment has the Gothic vibe typical for a Ware novel, but there’s an interesting dynamic introduced by all the upgrades the owners have made to the home, converting the old house into a smart home, with lights, cameras, and everything down to the coffee maker controlled by an app. The contrast between the old fashioned home and all the tech creates a kind of dissonance that’s off-putting for Rowan and creates a sense of tension. It also introduces some ambiguity to the creepy situations that follow; are the flickering lights being controlled by spirits who want Rowan to leave, someone with access to the app intentionally messing with her, or just a glitch in the system? The story itself is told in the form of a letter which Rowan writes to a solicitor from a jail cell, asking for his help. We don’t find out until late in the story what exactly has led to her arrest, but she insists on her innocence. This was the perfect format to tel this story, because it leaves the possibility of an unreliable narrator wide open. Rowan obviously has a huge vested interest in how this story was told, and I spent a lot of the book wondering how much of Rowan’s story to believe. My main quibble with the book was probably the hint of romance in it, but I’m personally a hard sell when it comes to romances. Nothing about the story line felt particularly awful, but it just felt a bit unnecessary and shoe-horned into the book. Overall, this was definitely one of Ware’s strongest novels. After Mrs. Westaway, I was a little hesitant about picking it up, and I’m so glad I gave it a shot! Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review!
Anonymous 1 days ago
Rowan Caine traveled for an interview for a position as a nanny at the home of Sandra and Bill Elincourt that is called Heatherbrae House. Both of them are architects in their own firm. They often need to travel so they need a nanny right away. They are the parents of 4 children. The children seem amenable, but little Maddie is not very outgoing. Petra is nearing a year old and a little sweetie. Ellie is 4 and clings to her sister, Maddie. Their oldest daughter is a young teen and is away at school. Rowan is impressed with the size and the modernity of the “smart house” additions that Sandra and Bill have added to the house. All sorts of things can be controlled on a cell phone or are voice-activated. The house is rather remote and a handyman is the only other person on the premises. After the interview, Rowan is delighted to be offered the job and cannot wait to start. When she arrives for the job, she learns that Sandra and Bill need to leave the next day. Baptism my fire fits the way Rowan learns to take on the almost overwhelming duties caring for the children. There is a housekeeper who comes in for a few hours each day. She doesn’t seem to be very friendly. Very soon, she starts hearing noises above her room but knows there isn’t an attic. She has been told that there are ghosts that do not want her to be there. Can she be strong enough to face head-on what might be something terrifying? Well, this was a good story, but for some reason, it didn’t really scare me. There are some unexplained happenings that made we wonder what caused them. What I found good was the real reason Rowan took the job and the sad dilemma she found herself in at the end. I’m sure readers will enjoy it. Copy provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous 2 days ago
This book started slowly, a lot of foreplay with no payoff in sight. If it wasn't that I had read and enjoyed all of Ruth Wares' other books I'd have put this one down. Rowan-Rachel was an unlikeable character and for a very long time I wasn't sure and did not much care if I was reading about Demon Child, A Ghost Story or what. But the last 60 pages turned around so much you could have got whiplash. She brings it home big time in the end.
Anonymous 2 days ago
best book I have read in sometime
abrich 3 days ago
My one word for this book is depressing!
MamaHendo 4 days ago
A former nanny is writing to a solicitor from prison after being accused of murdering one of her charges. She is writing out of desperation. She is writing in the hopes that someone will listen to her story, so she can finally tell the truth about what she knows. So begins our tale narrated through Rowan's letters to Mr. Wrexham as she goes into detail about what led up to the night she found the young Elincourt girl dead. After losing several nannies abruptly the Elincourt family needed to find a replacement fast. During their first conversation Sandra Elincourt informs Rowan that the high salary comes with a bit of a warning - the last few nannies left due to a fear that the house might be haunted. Being a non-believer, Rowan immediately shook off the concerns Sandra was sharing and headed north to Scotland something Rowan would regret doing for the rest of her life. I had such high hopes for this one. The build up! The suspense! I had no idea where this was going and sad to say I wish it had gone in another direction. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the book but the ended left something to be desired. Fans of Ruth Ware will enjoy her masterful way of pulling you on a twisty journey. Have you read this? Let me know your thoughts.
Fredreeca2001 4 days ago
Rowan accepts a nanny position in a remote area of Scotland. When she arrives, she is completely taken in by the “smart” house, the beautiful scenery, the enormous salary and the seemingly perfect family. The smart house is completely CREEPY! No privacy whatsoever…among other things..and the “perfect family”….oh no! Not even close! This book is twisted! Between the completely wired, gothic house, the weird owners, the poison garden and other creepy issues, this story had me on the edge of my seat. Which is shocking…I usually don’t like this format. It is told in letters to a solicitor by the nanny. Oh, did I mention the nanny is sitting in jail accused of killing one of her charges? Well! She is! The only reason this book is not getting 5 stars is the ending. The end of this story does not fit the build up. It is rushed and completely unsatisfying. But, do not let that stop you! It is still a great read! You do not want to miss this sinister tale!
Regan Smith 4 days ago
Ruth Ware does it again! I have read every book written by Ware, with Woman in Cabin 10 being my favorite. The Turn of the Key was written in Ware’s signature style: creepy atmospheric drama that grabs you from the beginning and won’t let you go until the final page. THE TURN OF THE KEY is a great read and a definite page turner. However, it will take the place as my new favorite Ware novel. What I loved: • The things going bump in the night • The house and gardens as the setting and also used as another character element • The gothic spookiness What I did not love: • The ENDING! Too ambiguous and anticlimactic. I wanted more! With all that being said, the book is wonderful, very entertaining, and definitely worth the read. I would highly recommend! 4 stars! Many thanks to NetGalley and Scout Press/Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 5 days ago
This was a suspenceful and interesting book that I really enjoyed ... until the End. There was no End; the author leaves us hanging. Disappointed.
Anonymous 5 days ago
Had an honest "damn" moment at the end.
BooksnKisses 5 days ago
NUMBER OF HEARTS: 3 1/2 The Turn of the Key is was a very interesting book. Ms. Ware formatted this book is in a series of letters from Rowen Caine to a Mr. Wrexham. In those letters Rowen recounts the events the lead up to her being put in prison for murder. Rowen hopes that with these letters Mr. Wrexham will be able to help her. The events that lead Rowen to become the nanny and being charged with murder are both shocking and sad. I enjoyed this book even if they ending leaving me with the What the heck feeling. This is my first book by Ruth Ware and I am looking forward to reading more of her works. If you are a fan of Ruth Ware I think you will be pleased with this story. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley & Gallery/Scout Press, Pocket Books in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.
Jill-Elizabeth_dot_com 5 days ago
I really liked this one - right up until it ended, rather abruptly and oddly given the lead-in to the resolution. It felt like someone called "TIME, pencil's down!" and the author had ten seconds to resolve everything and did the best she could with the time she had... It made this a 3-star read for me instead of a 4-, and left me feeling oddly unsatisfied, which is all the more frustrating since the slow burning build to the dramatic end is one of the things I usually like most about Ware's writing. It was still an enjoyable read, but the ending left me wanting more and felt like an unfortunate change-up... My review copy was provided obligation-free by the publisher via NetGalley.
Tomasitoreads 6 days ago
The Turn Of The Key gave me major anxiety, in a good way. The ending WOW did not see that coming. Lots of wicked twist and turns throughout the whole book, it kept me on my feet the whole time. This is by far one of my top 10 best thrillers I've read this year. I highly recommend this book, if your into fast paced, keep you guessing books. Rating 4.5
Anonymous 6 days ago
Ruth Ware hit it out of the park with this one. I read The Death of Ms. Westaway first, and was worried that this one couldn't match it. But it was so well done. So many twists. I highly recommend this book!
wjane 7 days ago
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is a Suspense Mystery Thriller that has scary and creepy plot twists to the very last pages. I have read every book Ruth Ware has written and enjoyed each one. In this book the characters are intriguing but all seem to have very disturbing personality traits and values. The smart house blended with a Victorian house was an interesting addition since both added to the creepiness of the story. I enjoyed this book except for the ending. There was no real resolution of what happened to the characters except for one person. To the very last pages I would have given this book 5 Stars but because of what I felt was an unresolved ending I will give it 4 Stars.
MaryND 7 days ago
An update of the classic Henry James novel “The Turn of the Screw,” Ruth Ware’s “The Turn of the Key” is the perfect thriller to throw in your bag for a trip to the beach (or to curl up with by a fire in the winter). The framing device—the novel is conceived as a letter written in jail from imprisoned nanny Rowan Caine to a solicitor who she hopes will defend her against charges that she murdered a child—is a bit clunky, but once I got past the first few pages this device proved less distracting than I had feared it would be. Rowan goes back to start her story at the beginning, when, burned out from her job in a daycare nursery, she answers an ad placed by Sandra and Bill Elincourt for a live-in nanny position in a mansion in the Scottish Highlands. The offer, with its astronomical salary, appears too good to be true, but Rowan seems to have other, undisclosed reasons for wanting it so badly. Once she arrives at Heatherbrae House and begins to care for eight-year-old Maddie, five-year-old Ellie and baby Petra, however, things begin to go wrong—Heatherbrae’s cutting edge smart house technology malfunctions to unsettling effect, Rowan hears footsteps pacing above her bedroom at night, and Maddie warns Rowan about ghosts while actively sabotaging her efforts at care taking. Ware does a nice job of updating Gothic horror story tropes (the house and grounds are almost a character themselves) and she keeps the suspense going right until the end, since the reader doesn’t know which child died or how until the book’s final pages. And even though I was able to figure out one of the major twists pretty early, there were still more than enough questions and plot turns to keep me guessing until the end. This was my first Ruth Ware book and I enjoyed it enough to seek out her others. Many thanks to NetGalley and Scout Press/Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 7 days ago
I really enjoyed this one. I honestly wasn't able to guess the end till I was upon it. very well done
marykuhl 8 days ago
Rowan takes a job as a nanny at a secluded home in Scotland. The mother gives her full disclosure that previous nannies have left because the house is rumored to be haunted, although she hasn't seen any evidence of this herself. Rowan is left with an 18 month old, a 5 year old and a hostile 8 year old. The bulk of this story takes place over the course of a week. You don't know the true reason why Rowan has been arrested until about 30 pages till the end. This was one of those books where if I was reading it, I was wrapped up in it but if I got interrupted, I would walk away from it. It wasn't an "oh I can't wait to get back to it" kind of book. That being said, the last 100 or so pages, I couldn't wait to get back to. From a smart home in which things fail, footsteps in an attic, and a locked door in the nanny's bedroom, everything finally comes together.