The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 May 2018

Member Reviews

I'm providing this review based on an ARC provided by NetGalley.

I adore Ruth Ware. Her novels have been something of a slow burn for me over the years, but I think with this latest offering, I've reached peak Ware fandom. Truly, the author gets better with each offering. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a classic British mystery, with a contemporary setting and tone. I can appreciate the classics of this genre but am even happier to find an author creating a modern take on the classic British mystery. Ware's characters have depth and it's a great puzzle to watch their layers peel away throughout the story. This is the type of book that would lead me to grab a cup of coffee and settle in on a cozy rainy day. Of course, all of this is not to say that the story is the least bit dull. The world-building and characters keep the pages turning briskly until you reach the lead-up to a very tense final act. I hope Ms. Ware continues on this trajectory.
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Creepy cover and the creepiness continued throughout this book. Then, strange things started happening to Hal.

On a mission to deceive due to her circumstances, Hal discovers a heinous relative that will kill anyone who knows the truth.

I must admit, while I enjoyed this book, I didn't get the physical suspense factor. I rarely had a racing pulse or triple digit heartbeats that I enjoy in most suspense books. Actually, it took a while before I even had some semblance of anything like it. 

In my opinion, had this book been shortened and things left out, I think it would have been a much better read. I know that is a horrible thing to say about the new "queen of suspense" but you got to have that suspense throughout the book to really be the queen, IMO.

Thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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I don't know what it is about Ruth Ware but she can do no wrong when writing her novels! From the first page and to the last I can picture what is going on in this story, you can't help but be pulled into her world of mystery and suspense. In the beginning I could not figure out what was going to happen (which is what I like, to keep on guessing) and her main character, Hal, was so intriguing she pulled the whole story together. Another part of this book that I absolutely adore are the flashbacks. Who doesn't love to get a little peep at what is to come in the story? All in all this is a must read just like every other one of her books! You won't be able to put it down, trust me.
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I read Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood a couple of years ago and was underwhelmed. At the time, however, I wrote “I think she’s an author worth giving another chance, even if this book had problems.” I’d been hearing a lot of positive things and The Death of Mrs. Westaway seemed like one of the to-read books of this summer. I just don’t think I’m ever going to be a Ruth Ware fan.

Hal is a bit desperate. She owns money to a loan shark and is barely (not quite) making end meet as a tarot card reader. Out of the blue comes a letter about an inheritance. Hal knows it must be a mistake, but she’s out of options, so she takes the gamble and heads out to Trepassen House.

I liked Hal for the most part. She’s a survivor. And the atmosphere at Trepassen House was appropriately spooky and gothic. I guess, maybe Ware can be a bit heavy-handed and she’s going for the surprise twist, but it’s never quite as big a surprise as I’m expecting it to be. There’s too much repetition and telling us don’t forget it’s gloomy here and feels like secrets. Despite being billed as this generations Agatha Christie, Ruth Ware does not write simple mysteries. I categorized The Death of Mrs. Westaway as psychological suspense, and it’s fine. There are tons of secrets and a general feeling of menace, but it’s not outstanding, which is what I’m expecting based on the pre-reviews and advertising.
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Harriet Westaway (aka Hal)21 year old is a down on her luck tarot card reader living in London. After her mom died several years ago, things haven’t gone quite right for her.  She lives in a tiny top flat and runs a booth on the pier where she reads palms and tarot cards. But she barely makes enough money to support herself. Worse yet, she has final bill notices coming in the mail and loan sharks paying her visits. Hal is the feeling pressure from all sides. All she needs is one break. She thinks she may have found it when a mysterious letter arrives from a solicitor stating that she could be heir to a fortune. Hal thinks there is a mix-up and they have the wrong person, but if anyone deserves this, it’s her. Right? Besides, what harm could it do?

Hal eventually makes her way to the imposing Trepassen house where she meets the family she pretends to be related to. Things seem to be going according to plan until Hal finds out that she is inheriting more than she bargained for. Now duping her new “family” just became a little bit harder and Hal’s conscience may get the best of her. 

I enjoyed reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway. It was a fairly easy read. I loved the setting of this book. It was very atmospheric and intriguing. The story is told from Hal’s point of view for the most part. There are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the book, told from the POV of someone else. The flashbacks gave me a slight “Flowers in the Attic” vibe.  I remember reading In a Dark, Dark Wood almost three years ago by the same author. That one I liked, but I would have to say for now, this one is my favorite between the two. Ruth Ware is great with words and knows a thing or two about how to set a proper tone for her books. I look forward to reading whatever she writes next. 

                                                                                                 RATING: 3½ out of 5.
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Thriller–drama 'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' is Ruth Ware's best yet
Ruth Ware has really hit her stride in “The Death of Mrs. Westaway.” I loved “The Woman in Cabin 10” and thoroughly enjoyed “The Lying Game,” but neither has the nuance of her newest book. It is much more complex—not just a thriller, not just a mystery, but also the playing out of a fascinating family drama.

Harriet “Hal” Westaway is a struggling young woman, whose life took a terrible turn when her mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver. She not only lost her mother, but her plans for college were ruined and she found herself taking over her mother’s kiosk on the Brighton pier reading tarot cards. She is in debt to a loan shark who is threatening her and sees little in her life that might bring her joy.

Then a letter from an attorney arrives in the mail, informing her she has received an inheritance from a grandmother she never knew existed. Perhaps this might provide her with enough money to get out of debt and straighten out her life a bit, so, in spite of the fact she believes it is all a mistake, Hal decides to head to the funeral and meet the family.

Ware’s masterful skills in character development really shine here—each character plays a vital role and is carefully drawn with her perfect prose. Hal finds herself thrown into a household of estranged siblings and a very ominous housekeeper, Mrs. Warren. Trepassen, the long-neglected family home seemingly guarded by a huge flock of magpies, could not be an eerier setting for this story. It’s the perfect Gothic mansion, falling down around its inhabitants. I could feel the frigid air coming through the cracks, hear the creaking of the stairs and sense the terror of the darkness, especially in the attic, where Hal had to sleep. The room with bolts on the outside of the door.

Hal arrives believing she is just playing a role, but soon wonders if she might really be a part of this dysfunctional family. What did her mother hide from her? Who was her mother? Who was her father? Why does Mrs. Warren dislike her so much?

It’s not just the tarot cards that foretell the future—the magpies have a voice as well:

“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.”

A feeling of tension and foreboding pervades the entire book. Ware’s ability to take the reader on a dark roller coaster ride of twists and turns shines. Set aside a good chunk of reading time for this one—you won’t want to put it down.

Sandy Mahaffey is former Books editor with The Free Lance–Star.

More Information

By Ruth Ware

(Scout Press, $26.99, 384 pp.)

Published: May 29
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Even though I’m typically a huge fan of suspenseful thrillers, for some reason I had not gotten around to trying one of Ruth Ware’s popular novels yet. I don’t really have any real excuse other than I sometimes tend to shy away from hyped books and this was one of those cases, especially since I’ve seen Ware referred to as the Agatha Christie of our time and that seems like a pretty tall order for any author to try to live up to.  The synopsis of The Death of Mrs. Westaway captivated me, however, and I decided it was past time for me to try my first Ruth Ware novel.  How did it work out?  I’d say the fact that I’ve ordered copies of all of Ware’s novels since finishing this one is a pretty good indicator of how it went.  While I might not go so far as to call her the Agatha Christie of our day, Ruth Ware is a superb mystery author in her own right.

Sympathetic Protagonist:  Harriet Westaway (or Hal as she is more often referred to) is a character that tugged on my heartstrings from the first pages of the novel.  She is a 21-year-old tarot card reader who works on a pier in Brighton, England.  Hal fell into this line of work a few years earlier when her mother, also a tarot card reader, was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident.  The driver was never caught and so Hal was forced to drop out of school and take up her mother’s work in order to keep a roof over her head and food on the table.  There’s no father and no other family in the picture so Hal is all alone in the world and is struggling to make ends meet.  When we meet Hal, she is up to her neck in trouble, having borrowed some money from a sleazy loan shark who keeps changing the terms of her repayment and has sent his goons to deliver a message to her, that message being threat of bodily harm or even worse if she doesn’t cough up 3,000 pounds, which she clearly doesn’t have.

Although Hal is a sympathetic character, she’s still pretty savvy and street smart, which is another thing I liked about her, as well as the fact that she also has a bit of a morally gray element that adds even more interesting layers to her personality.  When a letter from an attorney’s office arrives in the mail telling Hal she has been named as a beneficiary in the will of a Mrs. Westaway who has just passed away, Hal knows it can’t possibly be her, as she has no family.  That said, however, she can’t help but wonder if her ability to read people – so finely honed by years of reading tarot cards and telling fortunes – is sharp enough for her to fool people so that she really can claim the aforementioned inheritance.  Yes, there’s a risk she could go to jail for fraud, but if she can pull it off, it’s the answer to all of her prayers.  That in itself makes it a risk worth taking.  It’s so wrong of course, but I just couldn’t help but admire her guts and determination.

Atmospheric Quality: In addition to the wonderfully well-rounded character that is Hal, my other favorite part of the book is the atmosphere that Ware has created. Everything about the atmosphere has an air of suspense to it but it takes a turn for the creepy and Gothic once Hal arrives at the residence of the late Mrs. Westaway.  The house itself is dusty and ill-maintained, some of the windows are barred, It’s filled with endless dark corridors and stairways, and to top it off, there’s a mean old housekeeper, Mrs. Warren, that Hal seems to find lurking around every corner.  Everything about the house just had this ominous feel to it and had me wanting to yell at Hal to get out while she could.

Family Secrets – Web of Lies:  If you’re into books that focus on messy families and their dirty little secrets, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the book for you! As soon as Hal arrives and hears the will reading, she can tell that something is amiss with the Westaway family and that she has landed herself right in the middle of a hornet’s nest.  Nothing is as it seems and although she knows she should just cut and run before she ends up in potentially deeper trouble than she already is, she feels compelled to find out the truth about the family and whatever it is they appear to be hiding.  Ware does a marvelous job with the pacing of the novel and I remained enthralled as I waited for each strand of the web of lies to unravel.

I don’t really have anything at all here. It was a phenomenal read that I couldn’t put down once I started reading.

 While this was my first time reading Ruth Ware, it will definitely not be my last.  I’d recommend The Death of Mrs. Westaway to anyone who is a fan of mysteries and thrillers as well as to anyone who enjoys a good domestic drama.
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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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