fb-pixel Skip to main content

For Ruth Ware, it was the year reading ‘got squeezed into odd corners’

British mystery writer Ruth Ware.
British mystery writer Ruth Ware.Gemma Day

Best-selling mystery writer Ruth Ware mixes a mindfulness retreat at a Swiss chalet, an avalanche, and murder in her most recent novel, “One By One.” Ware, who has been dubbed the Agatha Christie of our time, has written six books, starting with “In a Dark, Dark Wood.” She lives in Sussex with her family. Ware joins fellow British mystery writers Elly Griffiths and Dorothy Koomson for a panel discussion at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 24, as part of the annual Newburyport Literary Festival, which will be held virtually over the weekend of April 23-25.

BOOKS: What are you reading?


WARE: As a parent of school-aged children who are stuck at home, my reading has gotten squeezed into these odd corners. What has saved me is I have rediscovered audio books. So I’m listening to “You Love Me” by Caroline Kepnes, the third book in her “You” series, which has a Tom Ripley kind of character and is very cleverly done. I’m also reading “Brown Baby” by the novelist Nikesh Shukla, which is a memoir about raising his mixed-race daughters. It is fascinating to read as a parent.

BOOKS: Are those books typical of what you might pick up?

WARE: I have wide-ranging tastes. Over the past few weeks I’ve read “Midnight at Malabar House” by Vaseem Khan. I listened to Harlan Coben’s newest, “Win.” For some reason, I’ve been on a tear of reading biographies of Cold War spies. Most recently, I read “Agent Sonya” by Ben Macintyre about a Soviet spy who lived in England. She was like a real female James Bond.

BOOKS: Do you read mostly crime fiction?

WARE: I try to not only read crime because you get saturated. But at the beginning of the pandemic I found myself going back to books I had read as a teenager, so Agatha Christie books.


BOOKS: What’s your favorite Agatha Christie?

WARE: In terms of the books I picked up during the pandemic, it was “Sleeping Murder.” I have a real soft spot for Miss Marple. The one I feel is her best book is probably “And Then There Were None” because it’s so well plotted.

BOOKS: Are there any books you’ve had to put down because they were too scary?

WARE: I have quite a low threshold for people being trapped or horrible things happening to them. I recently started “The Last Thing to Burn” by Will Dean. He’s written a series set in Sweden with a detective named Tuva, whom I love. This is a stand-alone and is so brilliantly written, so much so I couldn’t read on. It was too terrifying. It’s about a woman trapped in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

BOOKS: When did you start reading mysteries?

WARE: If you count Nancy Drew, it was as soon as I started going to the library, like when I was nine. In my teen years I went into classic crime, like Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Then I moved on to more contemporary novels in my 20s. Now I try to keep up on crime trends.

BOOKS: Who are some mystery writers you think deserve to be better known?

WARE: I think the British writer Erin Kelly deserves to be better known in America. I just read “Watch Her Fall,” which is set in the world of ballet. Female rivalry is like catnip to me.


BOOKS: When you read nonfiction, what subjects do you gravitate toward?

WARE: I love biographies in general. There are books in the UK that are drawn from the Mass Observation Diaries from World War II. The British government wanted to know how people were feeling in an unvarnished way so they asked people to keep diaries. They are moving, weird, and funny. Those have been compiled in various books. “Our Hidden Lives” by Simon Garfield is one of my favorites.

BOOKS: Do you collect books?

WARE: Not in a serious way. I love having books but I don’t mind folding over corners, writing in the margin, maybe dropping them in the bath. To me a well-read book is the ultimate compliment. However, if you say on Twitter, like I did, that you dog-ear pages, it’s like you admitted to eating puppies. My notifications filled up for days.