The Death of Mrs. Westawayby Ruth Ware Published 29 May 2018
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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.
"The Death of Mrs. Westaway" Reviews
There was a lock on the door. Two, in fact. They were long, thick bolts, top and bottom.
But they were on the outside.
This book was so creepy. In a great way. I'm really glad I finally broke down and read a Ruth Ware book.
My sister is a huge Ruth Ware fan so I, of course, in true sibling fashion, had to decide I hated her on principal and avoid all her previous books. Okay, I'm joking, but that dirty wench spoiled most of the endings to the others so I have had to bag an arc to be able to read this spoiler-free. And I loved it! Such a delicious, hard-to-put-down mystery.
What's not to love about old dark secrets, even older darker houses, and mysterious family legacies?
In The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Hal reads tarot cards on Brighton pier and struggles daily to pay the bills and find food to keep her going. This has been her life since the death of her mother a few years earlier. So when she receives a letter bequeathing a large inheritance to her, she decides to accept, even though she knows it must be a mistake.
Hal travels down to the English coast and meets her "family". She is taken to the huge, cold and gloomy Trepassen house-- a place that holds a thousand secrets within its walls. It soon becomes clear to Hal that something is not quite right, that she may indeed have a history entwined with the Westaways, and that someone in Trepassen house is determined to keep the past hidden, whatever it costs.
Ware builds up to her reveals so well. She had me on a hook the entire time I was reading, pacing the novel just right, gradually pulling back the curtain (and years) on the mystery. She remembers that the whys of mysteries are so much more important than the whos (because, come on, there's only so many people it can be, right?).
There's just this overwhelming feeling of wrongness that permeates the novel, and it makes for a very compelling read. Though this is not a supernatural story, the author plays with your mind just enough to have you questioning your own sense of reality and logic. I love the ghostly The Woman in Black vibe, the creepy old housekeeper, and the isolated setting.
The cards tell you nothing you don’t already know. It was her mother’s voice, steady in her ear. They have no power, remember that. They can’t reveal any secrets or dictate the future. All they can do is show you what you already know.
I especially love how the tarot aspect plays into everything, showing symbolism in everyday objects such as the four cups on the table. As Hal's mother noted, the cards are not magic or psychic, but they do have a way of pointing you in a certain direction, making you notice things you'd ignored before. It was very effective.
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"Centered around slow building suspense and tension you could cut with a knife, gothic thriller THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is Ms. Ware's most ambitious and entertaining novel to date."
All hail Queen Ruth Ware! It's no secret that lady authors have been taking over the psychological thriller scene in the past decade (GiRl PoWeR), but there are a handful that seem to come to the forefront when planning out what we want to read over the summer months. Ms. Ware has been a highly coveted name in recent years and for good reason; whether you have read her books from the beginning or are just jumping into her scene, you'll note that she writes a gripping novel with memorable characters and breathtaking atmosphere. While all of her novels would be shelved clearly under the psych thriller persona, this one shined more brightly than the rest, at least in my opinion, due to it's departure into the gothic suspense territory.
I'm a huge fan of stories where the atmosphere is as formidable a character as the people who are making the action happen. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway was the perfect example of such a tale, and the oppressive setting ramps up the unsettled feeling in the reader from the very first page. I almost felt that this book gave off some serious Agatha Christie vibes, but with a modern flair. The slow burning mystery portion of the novel was fantastic; it's not so much about the "who" but the "why" and the "how" in this case. The unraveling of what's really going on had a very traditionalist feel to it, and I wholly embraced the slight changes in the story that brought us to a climax that was both intense and gripping.
Do you like playing detective, perhaps finding clues along the journey of your reading experience? Then you'll most certainly LOVE The Death Of Mrs. Westaway. The devil is in the details, and that phrase couldn't ring more true than it does in this particular story. I had such a blast trying to solve the mystery in all it's parts and found, while a slow burn through and through, I couldn't put it down due to the story's compulsive nature. Dark, unsettling, and full of unexpected twists, Ms. Ware has created one of the "it" stories of 2018. Highly recommended!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
NEVER BELIEVE YOUR OWN LIES.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a cleverly crafted atmospheric mystery fueled by deceit. Since I was not a fan of The Lying Game, I was hesitant to read this, but I am so glad I did!
Struggling tarot card reader, Hal, aka Harriet Westaway, finds herself in a moral quandary when she receives a letter naming her as a beneficiary in her grandmother’s will. She believes a mistake has been made as her grandparents died long before she was born. Even though she knows that what she is doing is wrong, she is so desperate for money that she decides to travel to the funeral and play the role of the rightful heir.
Hal travels to eerie Trepassen House, her “late grandmother’s” crumbling estate. She thinks that she is only going to inherit some money, but she soon learns that she has been left much more. At the estate, she meets her “uncles” and uses her keen observation skills to learn more about the creepy family that inhabited Trepassen. When Hal realizes that she has a legit family connection to these Westaways, she begins to dig for more information which leads her into grave danger.
The mystery surrounding Hal’s past kept me intrigued, but it was really Hal’s character that kept me turning pages. Her character is what I loved most about this book. Hal has spent most of her life observing vs. being the center of attention, which has enabled her to master reading people. She can use this skill to deceive, but she has a generous nature. At the same time, she is also fighting to survive and must take what she can. She is often referred to be as being mousy or weak, but her character exemplifies the notion that those who observe are more powerful than those who need to be the center of attention.
Trepassen House also plays a large role. The thickly woven atmosphere surrounding the house transported me. Even though the events take place in the current moment, I felt like I had gone back in time while reading this as it is reminiscent of classic mysteries.The tarot card readings and the constant presence of magpies also contributed to this feeling.
This is not a book focused on fast-paced action, but rather on slowly unveiling the nuances surrounding the mystery. Subtle clues are planted throughout, but all does not come together until the end. This is a mystery with many layers; I found it to be intriguing, intelligent, and entertaining. I was satisfied with how things played out. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is one of my favorite reads of 2018! I recommend for those who enjoy slow-burn classic mysteries.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
Ruth Ware writes an eerie, atmospheric and dark twisted murder mystery in the style of the golden age of crime classics with elements of the gothic. 21 year old Harriet 'Hal' Westaway lost her mother in a hit and run car accident, and took up the mantle of becoming a tarot reader at the Brighton Pier. Alone in the world, she is in dire financial straits, owing money to unscrupulous loan sharks, and facing a bleak and unpromising future. Out of the blue, she receives a letter that tells her of an inheritance left to her by grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway, which she knows is an error, as both of her grandparents have been dead for a while. Her predicament and circumstances drive her to fraudulently pursue the inheritance, as she attends the funeral and travels to Cornwall to the huge and dilapidated Trepassen House, surrounded ominously by magpies. It doesn't take her long to become aware that something is terribly wrong. This is a story of a dysfunctional family, sibling conflicts and rivalry, intrigue, legacies and buried secrets from the past.
Placed in the attic room, Hal faces hostility from all quarters, apart from Ezra. The elderly, menacing and strange Mrs Warren, the housekeeper appears to have own secrets as well as knowing secrets of others. Hal embarks on a search for the truth aided by her trusty tarot cards, as she wonders what her mother's involvement with the family is. As the past threatens to reveal itself, Hal has to draw on her inner resources as danger swirls around her. Hal is a flawed character, who you can forgive her deceptions, given the precarious nature of her finances. She is brave and courageous in the face of the dark Trepassen House and all the secrets held within its walls. Ware gives us a well plotted tale with rich evocative descriptions. This is a creepy, absorbing and entertaining read which I thoroughly enjoyed with its echoes of Rebecca, Agatha Christie and more. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.
This book had me completely hooked from page one!
I have to give this 5 glowing stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for Ruth Ware—who if I’m being honest never disappoints me! This book was positively haunting!!! It was spooky yet meaningful, with lovely prose and compelling plot twists. I cannot recommend it enough!
I finished this book last night. It was one of those books that I stayed up late on a work night to finish, because I was so invested in the story. Hal’s dilemma had me completely immersed in the book. I think most readers will find themselves wondering what they would do if they were in Hal’s position! One thing that Ruth Ware does so well in this book (and in her previous work) is to write about characters that are cut off from society in some way. Sometimes this is done through a setting or an experience, and other times it is done through their social predicament. Hal fell into the latter category, with a dash of the first.
What I love about the way Ruth Ware isolates characters is how it makes you forget the noise of the rest of the world. It’s easy to put yourself in their shoes, because she writes in a way that their problem is so isolated, that it shines right off of the page. Hal’s predicament felt like it became my predicament! Hal’s strength, worries, and ideas felt like my own. I was able to fully empathize with her, and root for her along the way.
The promenade was empty, and the woman had disappeared into the darkness as if made from rain herself.
Hal is alone in the world. Imagine being a young woman, raised by a single mother and with no other family, and then your mother passes away in a horrible accident. Hal has no money, no family, and no friends. All she has left from her mother is her Tarot Booth on the Promenade—named Madame Margarida, after her mother—and the strength to survive instilled in her since childhood. But what Hal also has is a debt that is hard to repay. Surviving comes at a cost, and Hal has run out of options. And then one day, a letter arrives…
Don’t fall into the trap of believing your own lies.
The letter informs Hal that she is set to receive some inheritance from the late Mrs. Westaway, her grandmother. The letter is addressed to Hal by name, and yet Hal knows it cannot be true. You see, Hal knows her grandparents all died long ago on her mother’s side, and the letter references Mrs. Westaway being her maternal grandmother. Still, with debt piling up higher and no chance to repay it, Hal wonders if her career of reading others and telling them what they need to hear might be just the thing to help her play the game long enough to earn a bit of inheritance.
As Hal begins her journey to Trespassen House, she finds herself in over her head. It’s one thing to imagine taking a bit of money from those with plenty, but it’s another to place yourself in the center of someone else’s grief. The other Westaways are real people. And yet, there are many secrets in the home. Hal finds herself wondering if she isn’t the only person hiding something. And what will be the cost if those secrets come out?
I can feel it—my secret—burning me up from the inside.
I have to gush for a moment about the settings in this book. Ruth Ware uses such descriptive language, and this book takes place in some truly fantastic settings. From the spooky, abandoned promenade, to the bare apartment, to the dark mansion—I fell in love with the locations described in this book! I could imagine the settings so vivdly, as though I was there myself. I also loved the opening chapters on Hal’s work in the Tarot booth, and the people and settings she interacts with. I won’t spoil them, but they jumped off of the page for me.
The duality in Hal was also a high point for me. Hal is physically meek, but she has an inner strength. The way Hal has learned to play weaker than she is, and then her shows of surprising resilience and bravery were so wonderful. Hal is an easy character to admire and to root for. Hal is someone who has been cast aside in every way, but she has never allowed it to diminish her. Hal is caring but self-preserving. Hal is honest but deceptive. Hal is calculating but impulsive.
Many readers will enjoy this book, and I recommend it highly.
I am so grateful to NetGalley, to Ruth Ware, and to Gallery/Scout Press for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
See my review (and more!) here: http://novelbutnice.blogspot.com/2018...
So, here's the thing. You can't really compare Ruth Ware to any contemporary writers. The pure "old-fashioned-ness" of her writing style is so refreshing that it comes across as modern. Weird, huh? You gotta go way back to find Ware's influences. Yep, that's Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie and Patricia Highsmith.
These fantastic female authors constructed some of the best psychological suspense novels ever written, but they aren't quickly devoured like a lot of this genre's current output. Fine literature like fine wine requires some savoring time.
Sniff, sip and swish this one around your mouth a few times. What's the hurry? Just sit back with your glass, soak up the formidable atmosphere, and enjoy the leisurely experience.
This is by far the best of Ware's novels. THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is the book I have been waiting for Ware to create!! It is an immediate classic and the story of mistaken identity is an absolute perfect fit to Ware's charming, gothic style.
Loved the book, but I did not enjoy the audiobook version. Imogen Church is so wonderful when she is straight reading the book. However, there are numerous characters in this one and the overacted, squealing voices she portrays are just cringe inducing. Also, Ware uses the old diary device prominently in this story and I was confused so many times while listening (is this now? or reading from the diary again?). Ugh, I hate that I can't hear italics!😂😂 I went with Kindle in the end and was so glad I switched.
THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is not in the least “action packed”, but it is thoughtfully creepy and has so many twists in store for you. Wait for a thunderstorm. Break out the Courvoisier. Light some candles and crack open this beautiful, haunting and dark novel...just don't be in a rush! It's meant to be enjoyed.