The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 May 2018

Member Reviews

I hate to say I liked it because...yikes! It is creepy! Never the less, it kept me guessing until the end. I blamed someone else all along so I was quite shocked! Another good one from this author
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If I could gif my reactions to every twist and turn in this story, I would. This book was very suspenseful. I first fell in love with Ms. Ware's books, The Woman In Cabin Ten. It was so twisty-turny that I couldn't stop reading. Yet, I didn't feel the same connection to The Lying Game, however, it was also a well-written book. Yet, The Death... book brought me back to the same thrilling feeling that I had with my first read. And I plan to read her first publication. 
I was between a 4 and a 5 because there were so many characters that I was confused at times. I almost needed a family tree to go back to. And the red herrings were significant enough for me to wonder what the heck happens with that issue. I appreciate how I couldn't solve the mystery. Any time I'm challenged, I bow down to the story.
However, the conclusion was satisfactory. I will certainly be thinking about this tale for a long time.
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I love the creepy cover on this one, and the distinct Gothic feeling that I had while reading this... a spine-tingling read with all the chills!

I really loved the affectionate relationship Hal had with her mother - all the memories - how she thought of her fondly, heard her voice in her head, and how she tried to remember all that she had taught her. I felt "all the feels" as I read about this 20-something losing her parent.

This book kept me guessing as to who was who and who were Hal's real parents - I loved all the dark undercurrents of secrets. I know nothing about tarot reading, but the scenes with the cards were really interesting to me. I know all of Ruth Ware's books are standalones, but it would be interesting to see what happens to Hal next. She was a great, great heroine. When the characters stay in your head after you've finished a novel ... to me that's a mark of a satisfying book.
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Ruth Ware has done it again in her gripping new novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway. What was described as a spellbinding experience has more than lived up to my expectations.

Hal Westaway is struggling to make ends meet reading fortunes on the pier, something she learned from her late mother. When she receives a letter stating she is heir to an inheritance from a recently deceased family member that she didn’t know existed, she is sure it is a case of mistaken identity, but sees it as an opportunity to escape her financial woes. In an attempt to pretend to be the long-lost heir, Hal soon discovers that things in the Westaway home are not as they seem. What will happen if her true identity is discovered?

I loved the setting and atmosphere of this book. It was ominous and dangerous, and it was eerily riveting. Unable to put this one down, I was transfixed from page one. It had a bit of real magic mixed in with the tarot card readings. Then, add in the secrets around every turn and plenty of hazards and suspense. I was on the edge of my seat, completely engrossed. The pacing was perfect and I lost myself in the dark all-consuming world of the Westaways.

I would highly recommend this book! Unique from any other book I’ve read, and even unparalleled by Ware’s other novels, this one is a must read. If you enjoy a gothic ambience, historical mysteries, or even a psychologically mind-bending thriller, this contemporary spine-tingling mystery will entertain you for hours on end.

5 captivating stars!

**ARC provided by author for honest review**
Review by Amy, Late Night Reviewer for Up All Night with Books Blog
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A bit of a literary snob, I found myself critical of the writing and consequently unengaged in the early chapters. However, I also love a good psychological thriller and had read and enjoyed In a Dark, Dark Wood when it first came out. At the time I was recovering from surgery and recall the earlier book as a welcome escape into a gripping and suspenseful story.  So I read on and soon found myself caught up in a plot with more twists and turns than an Olympic skater.  A run-down gothic mansion, a sinister housekeeper, and ominous family secrets all brought to mind a beloved favorite, Rebecca. The main character, Hal (short for Harriet), as a tarot card reader adds an interesting dimension to the story. Another solid entry from Ware that's sure to be a hit!
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The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a wonderful whodunit thriller. What surprised me was that this not only was a great mystery, but it also had a feel of being an old-fashioned thriller, somewhat similar to Agatha Christie.  This was so well done.

Harriet (Hal) Westaway, our heroine, struggles to make ends meet daily.  When her mother died in a hit and run, Hal took over their tarot reading business at the Pier to be able to pay bills, and is threatened with a deadline by a loan shark.  Hal receives a letter about her grandmother passing away, whom she has not known anything about, and she is asked to attend the reading of the will, where she will get an inheritance. Being desperate, Hal, decides to go and play the part, since she knows it is a mistaken identity.  All she wants is some money to pay the loan shark, and give herself a fresh start.

 When she arrives at the funeral, the solicitor greets her, and afterwards takes her to Trespassen House, the mansion owned by the deceased Heather Westaway.  Hal marvels that it is a mansion, even if it is very much falling apart and in disrepair; but she knows the Westaways are rich, though the family no longer resides at the mansion.  Hal will meet her three uncles, and their family, as well as the old mean housekeeper, Mrs. Warren, who is sort of scary.  

When the will is read later that evening, everyone is shocked that Mrs. Westaway left everything to her granddaughter, Harriet.  Though some of the family is upset, they continue to embrace Hal as the niece that have never known.  Hal is upset and besides herself, feeling guilty that she is conning her new found relatives.   In a short time, she feels closer to her new family, and has mixed feelings about the inheritance she feels does not belong to her.    Hal finds a letter, and photograph that has her investigating the sister who is missing, and her mother, who turns out to be a cousin.  What she will discover will change everything, as there are so many hidden secrets, which will push Hal to try and find clues about her mother.  

As the plot thickens, with Hal slowly unravels the truth, the story becomes an intriguing thriller that had a lot of twists, turns, betrayals that kept me glued to my kindle, awaiting more details that Hal finds.  Ware gives us chapters from the past revolving around her mother, and the missing sister, which leads to many more questions.

What follows is an exciting, intense and at times even haunting mystery, as Hal begins to suspect she is in danger.  Someone does not want her getting too close to the secrets of the past.  What happened to the missing sister years before?  Why  did her mother keep secrets from her?  Who was her father?

Ruth Ware has written a fantastic story that was part thriller, but mostly a fantastic mystery, with a wonderful heroine.  I loved the old fashioned style mystery (but in present time), the many clues along the way, and the exciting,  pulse pounding,  surprising climatic ending.  This was very well done.  I suggest if you enjoy mysteries, you should read The Death of Mrs. Westaway.
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I so enjoyed this mystery, which reminded me all the way through of the Agatha Christie books. The story was a little dark, menacing, full of unlikeable characters, but a great murder mystery. Hal is a tarot card reader, who really has no faith in her skill and feels pretty much a fraudster. But it seems she does have skill, whether it is psychic or intuitive, which helps her solve the mystery.
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This is one of the most atmospheric novels I have ever read. From the Brighton Beach Pier to a desolate old mansion in the Cornish countryside to road trips in snow-blocked roads, Ruth Ware crafts setting like a painter. This is at its heart a Gothic tale that knows very well it is a Gothic tale (they even namedrop Mrs. Danvers!), but never is that to the book’s detriment. It begins rather like many Gothic tales; the heroine, Harriet, is given a reason to journey to an isolated old house in the countryside. In this case, she receives a letter informing her she is the recipient of her recently deceased grandmother’s inheritance. Knowing the letter was sent to the wrong person but financially desperate, Hal decides to go anyway. Once she arrives and finds herself amongst the deceased’s family, Hal begins to realize that perhaps she has a connection to them after all, a connection someone in the house is determined to keep secret.

Again, the atmosphere is the best thing about this book. Ruth Ware never lets you forget that you are in the bleak Cornish countryside by the raging sea, in the midst of fog and rain and mist. This is the crux of what Modern Gothic should be, and it is an objectively well-written book. It takes its time to move the narrative along, reveling instead in its creepy atmosphere and letting you sit in the sense that something is wrong, upping the tension so agonizingly slowly, that you find it impossible to put the book down until you discover what is going on. As a lover of Gothic lit, I had such a fantastic time reading this.

I especially loved the addition of Tarot cards; the descriptions of Hal’s deck made me want to dust off my own deck and do some spreads. I really liked how Ruth Ware connected the themes and plot points of the novel to the meanings of the Tarot cards. I also was really pleased that they were not treated as mystical items, but rather psychological ones, tools that help you examine your future rather than reveal it.

Something else I absolutely loved was the solidarity between the women in this book. I can’t say too much because I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but there are so many instances of female characters being kind and supportive of one another and it comes so organically. There is a very strong undertone of this female solidarity running through one of the main plot points that took place in the past, and I so wish we had seen more of that, and more of those characters together! Overall, though, this is a theme that came out very strong, and I adored it.

That said, I did have some issues!

First, there is the pacing. It takes an astonishingly long time for the plot to get going. I know, I know, I just said I liked the slow, tense, atmospheric tale, but that was once the plot got started. This book did not hook me from the start; in fact, by chapter 4, I literally stopped and checked Goodreads to make sure this book was actually meant to be a thriller, because I felt no thrill or pull. Almost nothing happened in these first few chapters besides Hal just…thinking. And thinking. And just…telling us about her backstory. Again, a nod to the Gothic, perhaps, but still. The book is rather long and I can’t help but think it might have been edited down a bit. Several of the chapters are repetitious, featuring Hal just thinking about what is going on – over and over and over again.

Second, there is Hal. Now, I try very hard not to criticize books for not being what I want them to be, so I will preface this by saying that Hal is a perfectly fine character, just one that I did not like. She is a professional Tarot reader, so she is meant to be confident and smooth-talking. I expected a con woman. Hal is not a con woman. She is constantly talking about how she is strong and tough and whatnot but overall she comes off as shy and timid and not especially intelligent or perceptive, or at least not as intelligent and perceptive as a professional Tarot card reader might be. There was nothing wrong with this per se, but I wanted someone with a bit more mettle, someone more conniving, someone who would have no problem conning a family. Hal, on the other hand, is not only timid, but is constantly slipping up, saying things she should not be saying, and I feel like someone who spins pretty words and lies for a living should not be prone to slipping up this much.

Third, there is the ending. So, the big reveal comes in two parts. One of them I guessed at, even though the author took great pains to point us away from it in a rather ridiculous way, but fine, I’ll buy it. The other reveal…well, I won’t be too specific since I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will just say that I found it a bit unsatisfying. I was unable to understand several characters’ motivations for doing the things they did; it seemed like the behavior of people living in the 1850s rather than the 1950s. Perhaps this is intentional and is part of the Gothic atmosphere of the book, but at some point plot cannot be sacrificed for atmosphere. I was expecting something much more complex and taboo than the reality of what had actually occurred. I have so many questions about the ending because the actions of these characters just made no sense.

Overall, however, I enjoyed this book very, very much. If you like Gothic literature at all, you have to give it a shot! The plot is not really this book’s strength; this book’s strength is in its thick, gloomy atmosphere that keeps you hanging on until the very end.
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4.5 stars.

 The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a British mystery with a deliciously Southern gothic atmosphere.

 Harriet “Hal” Westaway is a twenty-one year old woman who is struggling financially and is danger of losing not only her home but her livelihood. An unexpected missive from a lawyer detailing an possible inheritance is pretty much a godsend considering her current circumstances. The only catch? Hal knows she has received the letter in error. Despite a bit of mental wrangling, Hal decides to attend Hester Westaway’s funeral and then attempt to bluff her way into inheriting what she assumes will be a paltry but much needed sum of money.  At the gloomy and rundown estate, Trespassen house, Hal is met by Mrs. Warren who is the home’s crotchety and creepy housekeeper and the other heirs, Harding and his family, Abel and his partner Edward Ashby and Ezra, all brothers of her “mother” Maud.  Growing more and more uneasy with her plan, Hal is ready to abandon her “inheritance” but as she learns more about the family’s history and her possible connection to them, she feels duty bound to try to uncover the secrets of Trespassen House and its occupants.

 Hal has been eking out a living on the Brighton Pier as a tarot card reader but winter business is somewhat dicey due to the lack of tourists. She also finds herself at the mercy of an unscrupulous money lender whom she owes a great deal of money. Uneasy about her decision to hoodwink the Westaway heirs out of part of their inheritance, she nonetheless feels like they won’t miss the trifling amount she thinks she will inherit. Hal feels a great deal of trepidation upon arriving at the gloomy, rundown estate but it is not until she is shown to her attic bedroom that she truly becomes worried about her scheme.

 The reading of the will commences right away and Hal, along with her “uncles” are absolutely stunned over Mrs. Westaway’s bequeaths.  With her fear growing about what will happen once the truth about her scheme is exposed, Hal grows more and more desperate to escape back to her regular life. Her uneasiness continues to grow with each passing hour and Hal plans to extricate herself from the tension-filled household as soon as possible. However, after discovering her mother’s shocking connection to the Westaway family, Hal knows she has to find out the truth about this unexpected information. Her fateful decision could mean learning the truth about her father’s identity but it also puts Hal’s life in jeopardy as she continues digging into the past.

 The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an incredibly atmospheric and suspense-laden mystery. Hal’s experiences as a tarot-card reader provide her with an edge as she relies on her intuition and her mother’s advice to ferret out information about the Westaway clan. Ada Warren is a menacing presence in the household and her enigmatic revelations are disquieting and vaguely threatening. Out of the three “uncles” Harding is the best developed while Ezra and Abel are somewhat indistinguishable from one another. This latest release from Ruth Ware features a delightfully moody setting and a clever plot that will keep readers guessing the truth about the Westaway family. Fans of the genre are going to absolutely love this twist-filled tale of murder and intrigue that is rife with family secrets.
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The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is my favorite Ware book to date.  This book was written so well that the suspense just builds and builds to a thrilling and very satisfying conclusion.  A few years after the death of Hal's mother she learns that she is due to inherit part of her grandmother's inheritance.  However, Hal has never met her grandmother and didn't even know she was still alive and she thinks this is a case of mistaken identity.  Hal is in a desperate situation of her own so she decides to go meet her possibly new family members.  From there Hal becomes entrenched in a web of lies and mysteries that will lead her questioning all that she's known about herself.  Read and enjoy!
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When Hal goes to her grandmother's funeral, she discovers long lost relatives and secrets long buried. This book is reminiscent of Agatha Christie mysteries. It is a suspenseful, highly readable book.
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Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Scout Press for allowing me to read The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware. After the loss of her mother, Harriet, aka Hal, struggles to make ends meet by reading Tarot cards on the pier, but when money falls short, she has to borrow. When she can’t pay back the money, she is threatened and doesn’t know what to do. With the promise of an unexpected windfall, which may or may not belong to her, she has to decide whether to claim the money, or tell the truth. When she meets the Westaway family, who have secrets of their own, she begins to question her life and everything she believes to be true! Will having money, a family, and security, be worth risking her life for? This book will have you reading as fast as you can to unravel the family secrets and where Hal fits into this family. This is a great thriller!
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This was a great book.  I've read several of Ruth Ware's books and I think this is my favorite.  It is suspenseful, dark, and really creepy.
Hal is a fortune teller, being threatened by a loan shark, who gets a letter telling her that she has received a significant inheritance.  She knows it has to be a mistake, because she has no living relatives.  But would it really be so bad to along and pretend?  She walks into family drama, family secrets, and family danger.  This book has so many plot twists, but they all make sense, and the book wraps up with a satisfying end.  Ware does a great job of creating the atmosphere of the story and describing place.  I also felt that I knew the characters well.
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The novel starts out slowly and by the 30% mark, it really picks up. While the protagonist has questionable intentions, you feel for her and understand the reasons for her deceit. But then again, everyone in the novel is deceitful and hiding something. The setting is very gothic and the atmosphere truly adds to the to narrative. In fact, the estate becomes a character in and of itself. As slow as the first part of the novel began, the ending is almost too fast and not all the motives are flushed out before the final page.
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The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the first Ruth Ware book that I have read.  The gothic elements of the book appealed to me (and the magnificent cover), and I was not disappointed.  The book is full of dark and twisty story lines and a mysterious and creepy family home, and I thoroughly enjoyed following Hal’s progression as she attempts to uncover the sinister goings-on at the Westaway family home.  The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a clever, highly atmospheric book with creepy undertones that made me want to keep my light on at night after I finished the book.
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When 21 year old Hal Westaway receives a letter claiming she may have been left a substantial inheritance by her grandmother who recently passed. Hal immediately knows there has been an awful mistake--she has no relatives. The opportunity is to good to pass up due to her being broke and in debt to a loan shark; Besides, they had her name and address. Soon Hal finds herself wrapped up in a tragic unfolding history--one that might just take her life. Ruth Ware's latest thriller is captivating, as usual. Ware has a way of drawing readers in so gently that you can be surprised when you look up and two hours have gone by. Ware is truly a master and her novels are perfect for fans of Agatha Christie.
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What if the gothic suspense reader were able to take the stylistics of  Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Phyllis Whitney, and Victoria Holt and season the concoction with some ingredients from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre? If such a literary souffle were possible, it might look something like Ruth Ware's The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

The plot centers around Harriet "Hal" Westaway, a young woman who makes her living reading Tarot cards on a Brighton Beach pier. She's barely making ends meet and her meager existence is threatened when the local loan shark sends an enforcer to terrorize her into paying back money she foolishly borrowed. At the same time, Hal receives a letter from a lawyer, telling her she is in line for an inheritance from a grandmother that Hal didn't know existed. Hal is certain she is the potential beneficiary of a case of mistaken identity. 

Hal couldn't pretend to be someone else, could she? What would be the harm in claiming a small inheritance that might help her through this dangerous time in her life? 

Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems and no one is who they appear to be. Ware skillfully weaves a tale full of tantalizing twists and turns. Hal, for all of her desperation is a smart and sympathetic heroine who uncovers her hidden past in teasing layers. The attentive reader will find clues in Ware's motifs of magpies and tarot cards, but this mystery does not fully reveal itself until the very end. 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a satisfying suspense roller coaster. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Full Disclosure--Net Gallery and the publisher provided me with a digital ARC of this book. This is my honest review.
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Enjoyed this book with all of its twists and turns. Neatly resolved at the end and while I thought I had the perpetrator determined, I was wrong. A couple times. Which is always the sign of a well written mystery. Have already and will continue to recommend this title to my friends.
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Excellent!  Ruth Ware's latest is, by far, her best.  If you loved and miss those wonderful old Gothic novels ala Barbara Michaels, this is a book for you
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Hal begins her day like any other day, down on her luck and reading people's tarot cards to make ends meet. Then she receives a mysterious letter telling her that her grandmother has died, and that she will indicates she is entitled to a substantial amount of money as the result. There's only one problem: her grandmother has been dead for twenty years. Still, she decides to try and claim the money, using her skills as a tarot card reader to her advantage. She travels for the funeral, and, upon arrival, realizes something much bigger is amiss than a letter being sent to the wrong person.
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