The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key

by Ruth Ware

Hardcover(Library Binding - Large Print)

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#1 New York Times Bestselling AuthorShe stumbles across the ad while looking for something else: a live-in nanny post with a staggeringly generous salary. She doesn t know that she s entering a nightmare that will end with a child dead and her in prison for murder.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781432867232
Publisher: Gale, A Cengage Company
Publication date: 08/28/2019
Edition description: Large Print
Sales rank: 179,014
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(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 New York Times and Globe and Mail (Toronto) 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.

Customer Reviews

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The Turn of the Key 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months 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?
Anonymous 20 days ago
This was worse than her last one - no more Ruth Ware for me!
Anonymous 27 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.
DG_Reads 3 months 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 20 days ago
Love all her books snd this one definitely kept me up all night till I finidhed.
Anonymous 20 days ago
Loved the letter approach. The ending was great but left me wanting more.
Anonymous 20 days ago
She uses Jesus's name so often. She must really love Him.
Anonymous 24 days ago
This book has the awesome reveal like all of her books! Heart breaking but phenomenal
Anonymous 25 days ago
best book I have read in sometime
Anonymous 27 days ago
Had an honest "damn" moment at the end.
Anonymous 29 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!
Anonymous 3 months ago
I really enjoyed this one. I honestly wasn't able to guess the end till I was upon it. very well done
Anonymous 3 months ago
You interested
Anonymous 3 months ago
The book was ok. It seemed to unravel in certain place. The "surprises" were good but not strong. The ending was ok. But no big surprises.
Anonymous 3 months ago
iiiireader 3 months 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 3 months 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.
Philomath_in_Phila 7 days ago
‏I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review. What would you do if you were in jail for murder? Try to get someone to help you, of course. That is exactly what the main character in Ruth Ware's latest, The Turn of the Key, attempts to do. From her jail cell, Rowan Caine writes her lawyer begging for his help. I work in a courtroom in the criminal court system and hear trial after trial of people accused of various felonious crimes, including murder. I heard countless defendants testify. However, their stories are always fed bit by bit as the attorneys ask questions. This book is a defendant's story as it happened, from her point of view, from start to finish. While I enjoyed the format, I found the story hard to get into. I am glad that I finished reading it because the surprise ending makes the story worth reading. I would be remiss if I did not mention the story takes place inside a smart house. The house is so central to the story it could be considered a character itself. Ware makes us question whether the convenience of smart technology is worth the lack of privacy. The story is a slow burn but worth reading. This 200-word review was published on on 9/9/19.
Jessica_Wendorf 7 days ago
Coming off the heels of Riley Sager’s new book, Lock Every Door, which I would also categorize as a gothic thriller, this book is just what I needed and more. You know when you finish a book with a specific feeling? It is almost a combination of longing for another book just like it, a little bit of sadness because you wish you could reread this book with fresh eyes, and joy because it accomplished the exact feelings the author anticipated. Basically, I was feeling all that and then some. This book surrounds 24-year-old Rowan Caine who currently works in a childcare center when she stumbles across an article looking for a nanny, offering a generous salary, which was tied together with a bow. That bow is a beautiful “smart house” named the Heatherbrae House located in “beautiful Scottish highlands.” I promise I am not giving anything by saying this because Ruth Ware makes it known early on --- Rowan ends up in prison and one of the children end up dead… dun dun dun! There are two main factors that I think made this story unravel beautifully: the way the story was laid out and the setting. I don’t want to say too much about the way the story was laid out because I felt that was crucial right off the bat. What I will say is that it kept the story flowing in a way that you slowly gathered details, but in a somewhat fast-paced way. I know that sounds a little crazy, but that is the best way I can describe it. It was executed beautifully. I promise. The setting is a story in itself! A fricken smart house! Not just any smart house, a converted smart house that is a combination of modern and vintage design. The descriptions are beautifully creepy. I wonder if the author took the time to design this house separate from the story. Regardless, I want to see this house come to life! The thing is, I can’t think of a book I have ever read with this type of setting. That in itself really adds to the thrill of this read. Hats off to Ms. Ware for writing such a fabulous read. In my opinion, this is definitely the best book she has written to date.
Anonymous 8 days ago
This was a bit of a disappointment. The plot dragged along and then everything wrapped up in the last 30 pages. Not her best.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Great read! Easily got swept into Rowen's world of mystery, suspense, emotional torment , and shocking findings.
the_judylwd 8 days ago
I finished The Turn of the Key a couple hours ago and I'm still in shock at the ending. The book is written in a series of letters by Rowan, the nanny, from jail to a defense attorney. She has been arrested for murdering one of her charges. She works her way back from the beginning of the story to how she has been arrested. This book was unputdownable from start to finish as I had to keep reading just one more chapter. I felt so bad for Rowan. She has met the three little ones once and then on her first full day, she is left in charge while the parents leave for a week on business. Then all kinds of weird things start happening in a house that she's not familiar with and the house is operated by technology! I highly recommend if you like thrillers in general, and specifically thrillers with a gothic feel. I will be adding Ruth Ware's other books to my tbr list! Thank you to Netgalley and Pocket Books for the copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous 10 days ago
Didn't even seem like I was reading a Ruth Ware book. I expect grammar and punctuation errors in 99 cent books but not hers. Sentence structure poor, misspelled words are very distracting. Some sentences didnt even make sense. Here is an example; "I need to meet her face to face or at least in person" Huh?
Shelley-S-Reviewer 11 days ago
If you are looking for a really good, suspenseful story, this is it. I was hooked from the beginning and basically stayed with it until I had finished it. There are lots of twists and turns in this story with an ending that I did not imagine. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. It's always a fun time when you have no clue what is going on until the end when the author spells it out for you. I personally loved the direction the author ended up going and using the format she did, letter writing to an attorney. I don't want to give too much away because this book was completely unpredictable for me, which is a rare feat these days. I want everyone going into this story to have the same incredible reading experience I did. Just know, it comes highly recommended by me and plenty of other avid readers. This one is worth your time if you're looking for those old school thriller feels that don't come around too often these days. It was an easy read too and I admired its simplicity. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy Gothic books or horror movies. Or if you like a fast-paced thriller that will keep you guessing.
deniseadelek 11 days ago
Ruth Ware has done it again! This book had me jumping out of my skin when our AC switched on, and I read it in nearly one sitting.