Publish Date: May 30, 2018
I’m so excited that I finally read this highly anticipated book, thanks to the Sacramento Public Library.
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 center of it.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the latest book in Ruth Ware’s arsenal of psychological suspense thrillers. I have enjoyed each one of Ruth Ware’s books and this one is no exception.
Harriet Westaway or ‘Hal’ is a 21 year old orphan and a Tarot card reader running a booth on the Brighton pier. She carries the sorrow of losing her beloved mother to a fatal hit-and-run car accident. She is down on her luck, broke, in debt, and owes money to a Russian loan shark. It seems that all odds are against her until she receives an unexpected letter from Mrs. Hester Westaway’s estate stating that she will inherit a sizable sum.
Hal convinces herself to run the con of her life to save herself from her dire financial situation. She is determined to convince the estate attorney and the Westaway family that she is the long-lost daughter of the deceased Maud Westaway. She travels to Trepassen House and what happens is completely unexpected and causes her to question everything that she knew about herself, her parents, and her mother’s past. The answers are not straightforward, but happen with many curves, twists, and unexpected surprises.
The book is very atmospheric. Ruth Ware is a master at describing a setting in such a way that makes you feel that you are right there with Hal as she does her readings on the Brighton pier, lives in her freezing, dank flat, and stays at the Trepassen house and the property. The mood is cold, wet, dark, foreboding, and sinister, and you never know what to expect at any turn.
There are frequent references to magpies. The magpie is seen as a bad omen in many western societies, and associated with witchcraft, magic, divination and prophecy. Magpies are seen on the cover, in the Trepassen trees, and even on Hal’s tattoos as a tribute to her mother.
Hal joins the other Ruth Ware protagonists with short nicknames like Lo, Isa, and Nora. Of all of them, I like Hal best because of her character, her resourcefulness, and her integrity. The character development in this book is strong. I loved Hal’s people reading abilities. You can’t help but root for her. You want her to overcome her challenges and get that Westaway money, even though it’s not rightfully hers. Or is it?
I love how the mystery deepened as the book went on. Hal gets tangled up in family secrets, lies, the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Warren, and the eccentric Westaway family who, strangely, welcome her with open arms. This book is slow burning like all of the other Ruth Ware books, but I liked it a lot and I recommend it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars