The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 May 2018

Member Reviews

This is Ware’s best yet! Had me up all night, unable to put the book down. Just when I thought I had the whole thing figured out, Ware throws you for a loop again and again until the very end.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for my review. Here is that review"

Ruth Ware is great at creating suspense. It builds and builds, but then it just ends. I wish she would figure out a better way to divulge the "bad guys" and end the books. They are just so abrupt!!

This one begins with Hal, whose mother has recently been killed in a hit-and-run accident right outside their door. In order to survive, Hal has to give up her dreams of college and take over her mother's booth on Brighton Beach reading tarot cards and telling fortunes. She is in debt to a loan shark, who is threatening to do her some serious bodily harm. And then a letter arrives from an attorney, telling her she is an heir to a fortune from a grandmother she never knew existed.

The book follows her visit to the family's country home and unburys some deep family secrets along the way.

It is an OK read, but it did not really grab my attention and took me a long time to finish.
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I ADORED this book! This is my first book by Ruth Ware, and I am excited to read more. I loved the young but wizened main character, and the familial mystery and intrigue. I certainly didn't guess the ending. Give me an old house with family secrets and I am IN!
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Characters that readers will care about; a conspiracy that lasted for a whole generation; and a writing style that made the book difficult to stop reading.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book. 

Darkly intriguing, gothic creepiness that almost became scary, interesting well-developed characters one of which is a tarot reader, twisty plot that didn't become repetitive and an ending that did not make me crazy. All of these thing made for 4 stars from 3.5. A good entertaining summer read.
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Ruth Ware at her best - all her another books are great but this one was FANTASTIC holding the reader in suspense until the very end.
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This book was both odd and interesting.  The oddity of this book was the time period.  It felt as though it was a story from long long ago, but it was not.  It was a little slow and hard to follow at times but the story held my interest--I wanted to see if my prediction was correct.
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I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had heard a lot of good things about this author recently, but I haven't had a chance to read any of her books up until now. I was excited to get the opportunity to read this book. The plot line of this book I thought was great, there were so many twists and turns that by the end I couldn't wait to see what was truth and what was lies. I thought the author did a great job of gently guiding you down a particular path and making you believe things while at the same time presenting facts that would help lead us to the real answer in the end. The answer was right under our noses all along! And the ending really just threw me for such a loop - I didn't see it coming and it was such a great twist ending. There were a couple small slow parts but other than that I couldn't put the book down. I also really liked the incorporation of the tarot cards and their meanings. I thought that was such an interesting addition to the story line and also made the whole plot seem a bit more mystical and mysterious. This book was full of danger and heart-pounding tension, and I can't wait to read more by this author in the future. I would definitely recommend this one!
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This is my second Ruth Ware book, and I'm starting to think she may be becoming the queen of the mystery/thriller genre.

Harriet (Hal) Westaway finds out that she will be receiving a legacy from her wealthy grandmother who has just recently passed. Hal has never met this grandmother, and after some digging, finds out that she is not the right person. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, and with piling bills and looming threats from a loan shark, Hal decides to pretend. She goes to the funeral and meets Mrs. Westaway's three sons, all the while pretending to be the daughter of their estranged sister. Soon, she discovers that everything is not as it seems at Trepassen House, and finding out the truth may be more important than money.

Admittedly, it took some time for me to get into this book. The writing is phenomenal and the beginning was definitely interesting, but it is a slow-build book that only increases in tension the further along you get. There is an overwhelming sense of wrongness throughout the entire story, and the creepy, eerie descriptions only add to the foreboding atmosphere. You will sense that something the story is building to something big, and can I just say, you will not be disappointed. The story changed for me at around the 60% mark, and from that point on, I could not peel my eyes from the pages.

I was guessing every character's motive. It was impossible to tell who to trust. Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? Truth and lies is a major theme of this book, and one that comes full circle. The chapters are interspersed with occasional diary entries from Hal's mother, which gives you just enough insight to draw your own conclusions but not enough to give any sort of clarity.

I loved the tarot card readings and the way that the cards were used to predict and symbolize aspects of the story. I also liked that Hal never put too much stock in the cards, but rather used them to give herself and others the opportunity to find their own answers. Hal is a great main character. She's strong, brave, and intuitive, and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfold through her eyes.

All in all, a great read. I didn't know how much I needed a good mystery novel until I had this one in my hands. I look forward to reading more Ruth Ware books in the future!
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A case of mistaken identity turns the tide for a struggling young woman when she receives a surprising inheritance in THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY. In Ware’s signature style, the narrative unwinds gradually, ratcheting a sense of unease and tension.

We meet Harriet “Hal” Westaway, who reads tarot cards at Brighton Pier and struggles under the weight of overdue bills. Worse yet, a loan shark is circling, ready to collect an old debt, or else. But her luck seems to be turning when she receives a letter from a solicitor informing her of a sizeable bequest. Quickly she realizes they meant to send it to someone else, but feeling trapped and out of options, Hal knows her skills at reading people could help her find a way out, a little extra money in her pocket to settle her debts.

With hardly any money left, she sets off to claim the inheritance and meet the family of the now deceased Mrs. Westaway. What she discovers is a derelict house, a surly housekeeper, an estranged family and more secrets than she can process—secrets that suddenly have her questioning everything.

The story has a suspenseful, gothic vibe to it and tells us of a family and the secrets they keep. While there are no huge, action-packed thrills (that’s not her type of book), Ruth Ware does an exceptional job of creating a sinister, threatening atmosphere that keeps you entrenched, flipping the pages until you finally know how it all ends. She’s so adept at creating suspense, you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting for the situation to explode off the page. There were even notes of horror woven throughout.

Hal, our heroine, was a great character and anchor in the story. She had real depth and relatability. You’ll really feel her sense of desperation and struggle throughout, and on many levels. Overall, the book was just so well done, it was very clever and engaging… my favorite of Ware’s to date.
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THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware was just released. Although this is the first suspenseful mystery by Ware that I have read, I will definitely be going back and looking for The Woman in Cabin 10 and others by her. THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is an atmospheric novel set primarily at a family estate named Trepassen House in Cornwall - picture the moors, the sea, and a frigid, gothic mansion complete with angry magpies to add to the sinister feel.  

That’s what 21 year old Hal (short for Harriet) Westaway sees as she responds to a solicitor's summons to attend the funeral and reading of the will for her supposed grandmother, Mrs. Westaway.  Complications ensue because Hal is arriving under false pretense with no knowledge of the family, having lost her own mother to a car accident several years earlier and never knowing her father.  Gradually, she begins to realize that there is a tie between her mother and the "uncles" she meets, but the sense of danger is almost overwhelming at times with a locked attic room, unappetizing food from a scary housekeeper, and chance of being stranded without transport. 

Mystery fans, even if you think you have figured it out, there are plenty of surprise twists; I am definitely recommending THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY. This title was also a LibraryReads selection for May and received a starred review from Booklist and Kirkus. Read, shiver, and enjoy!

LibraryReads list:
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Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this arc.   This was the first Ruth Ware that I have read and it will not be the last.  This was suspenseful and mysterious.  I like the character of Hal and found her intriguing.  I definitely will recommend this to anyone who likes a good suspenseful book.
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Everything Ruth Ware does is SO good! If you like a good mystery that you'll want to consume in one sitting, she is definitely the author for you.  I loved the old english manor and tarot elements of this story.
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Ruth Ware has rapidly become one of those authors that are an instant buy for me. I loved In a Dark, Dark Wood and really enjoyed The Woman in Cabin 10 as well. When I saw she had written a new one, I knew that I had to nab it up ASAP.

Hal, a young woman who lives alone, receives a letter notifying her that she was named as a recipient for an inheritance. Her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway, has passed away and she needs to travel to that town in order to claim the offering in the will. The only problem? She doesn't have a grandmother by that name. It's clear that they have accidentally confused her with someone else. 

Hal decides to deceive the family in order to claim the inheritance. She knows that she is breaking the law and playing with the emotions of a grieving family, but what she doesn't know is to what extent she will regret playing that role. 

This book took me quite by surprise. Judging by the blurb, I expected this to be a thrilling and shocking ride. I expected to hate the heroine and despise every decision she makes. Instead what I got was a slow-burning mystery ladled with heartache and secrecy. I didn't expect to feel so much sadness and hopelessness. Ruth wrote Hal's character so intricately and so realistically that I felt my heart breaking for her time and time again. 

There were plenty of surprises all throughout the novel. Although there were a few parts that I was able to foresee, it still kept me guessing until the very end. 

Special thanks to Gallery/Scout Press and Ruth Ware for approving my request to read this book through Netgalley!
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I am a huge Ruth Ware fan and was thrilled to get my hands on The Death of Mrs. Westaway.  Shout out to Netgalley for the ecopy!  This book is creepy delicious.  The setting is dark and lonely, the characters quirky, and the storyline is haunting.  Written in that gothic noir style (very different from Ware’s previous books) this book so reminded me of old dark movies.  I remember watching “Dialing for Dollars” in the 70’s – a daily movie that featured a lot of film and gothic noir.  I loved it back in the day and love it now.
Hal (Harriet) receives a letter in the mail notifying her of an inheritance that could be quite substantial.  She knows the letter is a mistake, but life has been difficult, the last three years definitely the worst.  Her mother was murdered by a hit and run driver requiring Hal to drop out of school right before her graduation.  Lacking any kind of financial stability, Hal immediately takes over for her mother as a tarot card reader.  
She was trained by the best, spending time in the backroom of her mother’s business and listening to her read fortunes.  Hal learned the fine art of reading people, situations, and using technology to learn more about potential clients (something her mother would never have done).  Needless to say, this was not enough.  Hal turned to a loan shark to supplement her income and has not been able to pay him back.
This book is a true mystery, and I was hooked from the beginning.  Be prepared to set aside some free time to read this book because you will not want to put it down.
5/5 stars
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Ruth Ware creates another rich world in this novel, complete with the expected twists and turns. The reader discovers Hal's history as she does and I felt her emotions along with her. The final twist was unexpected and shocking.
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The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ruth Ware
May 29, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is full of spellbinding menace and told in the author’s signature suspenseful style—an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

An allusion to an English folk-rhyme; a plot that’s tangentially anchored to the meaning of Tarot cards; plus a downtrodden and vulnerable heroine: these elements comprise the plot of The Death of Mrs. Westaway. The prologue—dated 29th November, 1994—is a meditation of sorts on magpies. It’s not clear who the author is.

The magpies are back. It’s strange to think how much I used to hate them, when I first came to the house.

It has a ring of the famous opening line of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Like du Maurier, Ware is floating questions about where and why. The magpies described in the prologue are omnipresent and upsetting. The writer references “One for Sorrow,” a “traditional children’s nursery rhyme about magpies.” N.B. “One for Sorrow” is the epigraph for The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

One for sorrow

Two for joy

Three for a girl

Four for a boy

Five for silver

Six for gold

Seven for a secret

Never to be told

Did the person writing in 1994 have bad luck? Because the folklore tradition is that “the number of magpies one sees determines if one will have bad luck.” The dark, eerie prologue ends on a hopeful note: “I’ll change that rhyme. One for joy. One for love. One for the future.”

Ruth Ware then switches to a classic mystery opening—a young woman, living in unfortunate circumstances and teetering on the verge of homelessness and worse, receives a letter that promises to vastly improve her life. She is a person of interest: a lawyer invites her to come to Penzance for a reading of a will. Hal (Harriet) Westaway is an orphan, reading tarot cards in the persona of Madame Margarida at a down-at-the-heels kiosk on the Brighton Pier. It’s November, the crowds are dwindling, and the nights are cold and dark. Worse still, she owes money to a loan shark who threatens her livelihood and personal safety.

Hal gives sensitive readings, constantly searching for the right words with which to educate, console, or relieve the worries of her clients—like when she talks to a distraught mother, grievously worried about her drug-addict son. The last card in the woman’s simple three-card spread is the Priestess, symbolizing intuition. Hal’s words are soothing and open-ended. It’s almost as if Hal is speaking to herself.

“Ultimately,” Hal said softly, “you have to decide for yourself what the cards are telling you, but my feeling is that the Priestess is telling you to listen to your intuition. You know the answer already. It’s there in your heart.”

The woman drew back from Hal, and then she nodded, very slowly, and bit her white, chapped lips.

Then she stood, threw down a crumple of banknotes on the table, and turned on her heel.

Hal is horrified at the amount of money the woman gives her—she tears after her to return it. When she can’t catch up, she stuffs every crumpled banknote into a charity slot on the pier. It must be karma: the charity of the month is THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT—DRUG REHABILITATION IN BRIGHTON AND HOVE. Hal’s need for karma is paramount because when she returns to her kiosk to pick up her forgotten coat, her loan shark is waiting. He tosses her belongings, tells her he’ll bust up her face, and leaves with a sinister, “sibilant, whistling ssss” snarling that she has a week to come up with the money.

In the years since her mother was killed in a car accident, Hal had become “someone hardened, someone who had to become hardened in order to survive.” Her need for survival has her looking up the Trainline website, “December 1. 7 a.m. Brighton to Penzance, return.” It’s a no-brainer. Hal leaves for Penzance as an imposter, riding a train of nerves and exhilaration. But, of course, there is more to the lawyer’s letter than she realizes.

Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway is “an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.” Ruth Ware, like Dame Christie, is British. She was born in 1977, the year after Christie’s death. Writer Karen Woodward, in an extended piece on how to write like Christie, noted her propensity to have a “late start” to the initial murder.

Many of the murder mysteries I read (and watch) have a relatively short interval between the start of the story and the murder. Not so for Agatha Christie’s books. She often had an extended interval between the first character walking on stage and someone getting knocked off.

Perhaps this needs a spoiler alert, but that’s true of The Death of Mrs. Westaway too. But the true mystery is who Hal is. What is her connection to a group of seeming strangers that she meets for the first time at a funeral? Hal’s life and circumstances—both before and after she receives a letter from a lawyer promising an inheritance—are bleak, mysterious, and sad, only occasionally shot through with fleeting joy. It is an unputdownable book—readers will find themselves imagining Hal’s future life, unable to fully part from her, well after the story is finished.
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Another eerie addition to Ruth Ware's novels. I found this book to be entertaining and I enjoyed the creepiness factor of the setting. This book kept me wondering who, if anyone, was telling the truth and if anyone even knew what the full truth was. I will recommend this book to any fan of the psychological thriller genre.
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This book by Ruth Ware is definitely an intriguing read. Set in England, it follows a young woman who is down on her luck, and who finds she is the potential heiress to a  family fortune. Or is she? This book is absolutely full of twists and turns, and keeps the reader engaged. Just when  you think you have figured out the mystery, another twist comes along. I can guarantee you will never see this ending coming!
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Short Take: Last night I dreamt of Manderley… ahem… Trepassen again……

(*Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review*)

I have always had a weird fixation on houses, especially old ones. I read The Witching Hour by Anne Rice obsessively, not just because of the creepy stuff or hot witch-on-witch action, but for the loving descriptions of the old Mayfair house being restored. There’s just something so delicious about an ancestral home, the one that’s been in the family for decades if not centuries, and the way they tend to become a starring character in some of my favorite stories.

In The Death of Mrs. Westaway, the house is known as Trepassen, and the unlikely heroine of the story is Harriet, or Hal for short. Hal works as a tarot card reader in a somewhat run down beach town, a trade she learned from her mother, who was killed by a drunk driver shortly before the start of the book. When we meet Hal, she’s flat broke, nearly homeless, and about to have her face kicked in by some very serious loan sharks. 

So when she opens a letter addressed to her, stating that her grandmother has died, and Hal is  the sole heir of a massive estate, it seems like things might finally be breaking her way. Ok, the grandmother is someone she’s never heard of, and the person named as her mother in the letter is another stranger, and the letter was probably never meant for her in the first place, but if anyone could pretend to be the missing heir, it would have to be an experienced fortune teller.

And so, Hal travels to Trepassen, where she has to pretend to be a long-lost relative of people she’s never met. In order to play the part Hal tries to quietly snoop and learn as much as she can about them, but when her digging starts turning up skeletons that someone would rather keep buried, things take a Turn For The Worse.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but I couldn’t help but feel like Ruth Ware had read Rebecca a whole bunch of times and used it as a template. 

Chick with dude’s (nick)name? Check. 
Ancestral home with dark secrets being investigated by our heroine? Check. 
Creepy housekeeper screwing with our heroine at every turn? Check. 
[spoiler] hidden in a [spoiler]? Check.

That last is a MAJOR plot point that I won’t describe, because it would be a huge spoiler and everyone would hate me forever after, but trust me - it was lifted directly out of Rebecca. 

Of course, there are still plenty of differences, and overall, Mrs. Westaway is a lot of fun (especially the tarot stuff), but to me, there were just too many similarities, and it was distracting.

The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and an Ace of Swords, just because it looks cool).
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