Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Day: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.
Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.
Booktimistic Star Rating:
Having read all of Ruth Ware’s books, I can easily say that The Death of Mrs. Westaway is so far my favorite by her. It has all the makings of an ideal claustrophobic old-fashioned mystery. A huge isolated mansion with a looming squeaking iron gate, a creepy old housekeeper, a mysterious will, an awkward reunion, layers upon layers of family secrets and moral dilemmas aplenty. I don’t know about you, but I devour these logic defying strange stories where everything seems wrong and The Death of Mrs. Westaway was right up my alley, a story that managed to unsettle and satisfy at the same time.
The plot is fairly simple, or so it appears to be at the beginning before things start getting tangled. Hal is a twenty one year old Tarot reader who’s struggling to make ends meet. After losing her mother and only family at eighteen it has been only her and her Tarot reading booth at the pier. One day she receives a strange letter bequeathing her with a substantial inheritance. Hal knows immediately it’s a mistake, as she has no family, let alone an insanely rich one. However, since she is in dire need of money, she decides to play the part and claim some much needed cash, unaware of the chilling secrets awaiting her at the Trepassen House that could turn her life upside down.
Hal is a very strong and likable main character, a welcome change from the exasperating, alcoholic unreliable narrator that we have been seeing lately in thrillers. She is fiery, resourceful and independent, struggling through life despite the odds. She has an admirable knack of reading people. Of course she has her set of flaws, but so does every human on earth. Being inside Hal’s mind while she was trying to figure out the mysteries within Trepassen House was both exciting and slightly frightening.
There is a bleak and foreboding air to the story, a constant dark gothic vibe that seems to just linger around the narrative, casting suspicion on every character, every event. The author masterfully builds up the suspense, giving so much as to plant doubts and keep the reader’s skepticism alive but never enough to work out a plausible answer. The overall effect is frustrating as it is compelling. To top it all, the conclusion is perfect, shocking but making complete sense. I also liked the symbolism scattered around the story, like the magpies, the lock outside the attic room door, the message on its window and the several tarot references.
In short, I loved everything about this book. It is creepy, sinister, unsettling and thoroughly enjoyable! It is one of those books that that I’d highly recommend as a fitting atmospheric October read, the perfect multi-layered slow burn mystery that would leave the reader fully satisfied and entertained.