The Death of Mrs Westaway

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

I found the pacing on this a bit uneven. I really enjoyed the Agatha Christie/ Daphne du Maurier vibe but kept feeling thrown or bumped out of the story by the references to the 90s and modern times. My interest waned in the second half, just when I really should have felt more invested.
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I enjoyed reading this atmospheric mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. It had  plenty of dark secrets, a creepy dilapidated old mansion and an obligatory dysfunctional family. However, I felt that it took too long to set the scene and some red hearings were a little clumsy and gave the plot  twists away, so I worked everything out quite early on, which annoyed me. Overall, another good read from Ruth Ware and she is becoming one of the authors whose books I'd buy without reading the blurb. Waiting with anticipation for the next one.
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Fantastic book well written enjoyed every chapter didn’t want it to end 😩😩😩😩 real page turner highly recommend it fab holiday beach read
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Hal (Harriet) Westaway is living in Bridgton, scraping a hand-to-mouth existence reading Tarot on the pier, and threatened by a loan shark.
Since her mother was killed in an accident a few years previously, she has had to fend for herself, so when a letter arrives addressed to her saying that her grandmother has died, and she is due an inheritance, she decides to take a chance, although she knows that her real grandmother died many years previously. 
When she arrives in Cornwall and meets the dysfunctional family that she claims to be part of, she realises that she will need all her skills to persuade them of her veracity.
But then something happens, and she realises that she DOES have a connection to the family, and as she unravels all the secrets, she finds herself in danger, and questioning her past.
I enjoyed this book very much, it reminded me of Kate Morton’s books.
My only criticism was that there was no real explanation of the character of Mrs Westaway, and no mention of Mr Westaway, which may have added an extra dimension to the story.

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read this book.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
 Harriet Westaway (Hal) is a struggling tarot card reader on Brighton seafront.  She is in debt to some unscrupulous loan sharks and is being threatened at home and at work. 
 When Hal gets a letter from a solicitor saying she is due to an inheritance following the death of her grandmother she knows that the solicitor has made a mistake and contacted the wrong Harriet Westaway , The  lure of a way out of her financial problems is too tempting to ignore, however and she decides to lie her way to the money. .What Hal doesn't realize is that the family that she is about to con have far more skeletons in their closet than she does!
 Loved this book. Ruth Ware is an amazing writer who gets better and better.
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Out of money, out of luck and living in fear of the loanshark to whom she is debt, Harriet 'Hal' Westaway, a Brighton pier tarot card reader, receives a lifeline in the form of a letter from a Penzance solicitor informing her that she is a beneficiary of her grandmother's will. Almost immediately, Hal realises that this is a mistake as the dead woman is obviously not her grandmother, but she desperately decides to pretend otherwise in the hope of gaining the few thousand pounds to get her out of the hole she is in. And so Hal travels to the funeral and on to the Manderley-like Trepassen House and secrets of a 'family' she has never met....

I didn't know what to expect from this novel or from Ruth Ware. I had heard good things about her books, 'The Woman in Cabin 10' especially, but had not got round to reading them. 'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' is a gothic mystery which builds suspense and maintains a sense of foreboding throughout. Ruth Ware writes extremely well - one character is described as having "the air fo a man who had eaten a good meal, but would always want more, nibbling at nuts and cheese" - and keeps the tension so that the reader wants to keep reading to see what happens next. That I guessed a couple of the twists didn't matter at all and, while it does get a little frantic towards the climax, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be putting the author's previous books on my 'to-read list'.
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An absolute cracking read, loved it, to be honest the first few percent i was very unsure, was a bit slow and before i went to bed i had thought i would perhaps not continue in the morning, how wrong was i and have given myself a bit of a talking too ha ha.. so so so glad i picked it back up because literally soon after i was engrossed completely.
Fab characters, loved Hal and Mitzi was a darling! well written and one of my favourites this year, definitely  one i want to buy to have on my bookshelf!
It is a book that could go many ways, who was the father etc, i did guess although the actual truth of hows whys etc i didn't, nor the plot twists at the end. well Done Ruth Ware!
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Who doesn't dream about getting an unexpected inheritance? In this case is the letter Hal gets truly unexpected. Since she's not the right person. Although she desperately needs the money. So, why not try to impersonate the true Harriet, since no one seems to know anything about her? Great plan, until Hal realize that perhaps she has stepped into a nest of vipers. Although the family seems awfully nice at first. It's just that there seem to be something wrong that her arrival has turned the table...

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a thrilling suspense novel with an excellent nervewracking ending. I found the story to be refreshingly new. I read a lot of thrillers so I'm always glad when I get a book that keeps me on my toes and keeps surprising me. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a book that gives some clues here and there, and you have to together with Hal try to figure out the mystery at the house with her new "relatives". And, it's bloody hard to write anything without spoiling the book. So, I will just say that the book is compelling from the start and will keep the reader hooked until the end. 

I have previously read In a Dark, Dark Wood by the author, but I have still The Woman in Cabin 10 to read and I'm really looking forward to doing that!
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Another fantastic book from Ruth Ware - Creepy, mysterious & hard to put down! If you’re after a good thriller then this book is for you! Loved it!
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One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for secret
Never to be told

Hal (Harriet) works on the West Pier in Brighton as a tarot card reader; she is struggling to make a living following the death of her mother 3 years previously and has made some bad decisions in the meantime. After a particularly bad day, Hal comes home to a letter addressed to Harriet Westaway informing her that her grandmother Hester Westaway has named her as a beneificiary in her will. 
Is it a case of mistaken identity or can Hal pull it off?

Hal mentions her mother often from the start of the novel and it shows that she still deeply misses her and has never overcome her loss of losing her. She's all alone in the world as she's never known her father and has always been informed she has no family. So when she receives the letter from a lawyer she feels this is a good thing for her and may be a turning point in her fortune; discovering a family she never new she had and paying of some debt and being able to pay the bills for once. 

Once Hal arrives at the house after the funeral, she feels like there's something wrong - something that isn't being said. Mrs Warren the house-keeper takes an instant dislike to Hal and threatens her to leave before it is too late and she is not welcome. 

I love the twists and turns in this book; this is my first Ruth Ware book but I'm certain it won't be my last. I loved the two points of view we get after Hal arrives at the house; it took me a while to figure out who it was but once I did it all fell into place. I didn't guess the ultimate twist at the end and was quite shocked when it was explained but it all fell into place. 

This would have been a solid 5  for me if only Hal's situation in the beginning of the book had been resolved and not kinda just left hanging in the background with no mention. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Random House UK, and Vintage publishing for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Ruth Ware is a fantastic mystery/thriller writer, so I jumped at the chance to read this. 

I loved the character of Hal, she is interesting who I could myself rooting for, even when she was trying to con people. The Westaway family however, are all very mysterious and it’s difficult to know who Hal should trust. 

As is often the case with Ruth’s books, the atmosphere and setting is almost like a character of it’s own. It’s fittingly eerie and brilliantly described.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy dark thrillers which will  second guessing throughout.
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When Harriet Westaway receives a solicitor's letter naming her as beneficiary to her grandmother's will it seems like the answers to all her financial prayers. The catch? Hal's real grandparents dies more than twenty years ago. Hal knows she could use her skills as a seaside fortune teller to claim the money as her own. Hal makes a choice but once she chooses deception she must keep it up at any cost.

I was so disappointed with this book, I was expecting a chilling, intense atmosphere which I really did not get until right near the end, and I mean right near the end. Dare I say it but I was quite bored reading this, at times it was a struggle to continue. On paper, I liked the concept and initially I liked this, then it tapered off before ramping up close to the end and here Ware threw in the chilling, intense atmosphere and it was intense and full of danger, if only this had been carried through the rest of the book. 

I did enjoy reading Hal's backstory and learning about her craft, it made for unique reading which was highly refreshing. We slowly learn the backstory of Hal's family and again it was really fascinating reading and the sense of unease creeps up on you slowly. 

Character wise, I thought they were all well written, some are more developed than others but it works for the plot so it is okay. Hal is the most developed character and as a result I was rooting for her more than the others.

I had high hopes for this book but I was let down by the slow pace and lack of an atmosphere. This turned into a very disappointing read. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for an advance copy.
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This is a perfect mystery book that keeps you guessing throughout. I definitely didn't work out the truth which I'm super pleased with. 
Ruth Ware has such a way with story telling, I can't wait to see what she does next.
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A cracking read, a really intriguing story that flowed from the beginning and kept you guessing until the end, I seemed to read it at break neck speed as couldn't put it down, loved it
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The Death of Mrs Westaway starts with Harriet (Hal) Westaway receiving an unexpected letter telling her she's inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother. This could not have come at a better time for Hal, who is living alone, struggling to make a living telling fortunes on Brighton Pier and pay back the loan shark whose threats are becoming more aggressive with each day. But Hal knows her grandparents died over twenty years ago and that she is not the person for whom this bequest is meant - this letter has been sent to the wrong person.

Hal is desperate though. She is also clever, confident and willing to take a few risks if it might mean she ends up with some money that will change her fortunes. She spends her days reading tarot cards for people and telling them what they want to hear, she knows how to convince people of a fictional truth and she is also not adverse to deception. She knows she could probably successfully con her way in to getting this money. And once she's made this decision, travelled to Cornwall and introduced herself to the family, there is soon no going back...Even when it suddenly becomes very clear that there is a much darker and more complicated history for Hal to inherit first.

This is such a great premise for the start of a story and I was immediately hooked. Hal is such a likeable character despite her flaws and failings, it is impossible not to connect with her and want to follow her on her journey. Her confidence wavers on her journey to Cornwall which reveals to the reader that she is vulnerable and more fragile than she appears but ultimately I loved her initiative, her insight, her humour and her bravery - particularly when it comes to facing the truth. I was very drawn to her and she is a great protagonist. 

I also loved the settings of both Brighton and Cornwall - both evoked with conviction and authenticity and both used to enhance the drama, tension and suspense. There is nothing more delicious than a house full of secrets and I am an absolute sucker for a story that centres around this sort of set up. The Death of Mrs Westaway seemed to echo elements of Christie, Highsmith and Du Maurier and I loved this. The role of Mrs Warren as the housekeeper was such a reminder of the formidable Mrs Danvers from Rebecca and definitely enhanced the story for me. Ware's understanding of how to raise tension and suspense is impressive and her evocation of a menacing atmosphere is masterful. 

Hal reads tarot cards as her job and these cards were used really effectively throughout the novel. I enjoyed the way the images on the cards and the meanings they represent were used to create tension, threat, drama and suspense but I also liked the way Hal used her experience of tarot reading to help  while she tried to con the family about her identity. Her tarot cards - and her mother's teaching about how to use them - has not only taught her how to earn a living and play a game, but also some life lessons like pausing, taking a breath before answering questions and listening properly to people. I enjoyed the passages when she waits, tries to read the other characters, tries to work out what they know and what she should reveal. This insight about picking up clues from people and watching them closely is used really effectively, not only in helping Hal solve the mystery that surrounds her own parentage and this mysterious bequest, but also in generating tension and atmosphere. The themes of truth, lies, secrets and deception are explored with more depth and complexity because of Hal's character and ability to manipulate others. The tarot readings and the messages from the cards are also used to haunt and gradually add more sense of threat to the pages. They are a dark force and create a delicious sense of foreboding as Hal realises that all she thought she knew, and all she thought she would find in Cornwall, is wrong.

This really is a fabulous, page turning read full of suspense, mystery and tension. It is a complex tale of families and secrets, a spellbinding tale full of twists and revelations. It is perfectly executed and the characters are really well crafted. It's a hugely enjoyable read and Ware is a really great story teller. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this story which for me was a one sitting read  -which both disappointed and yet delighted me at the same time! I couldn't put it down but was sad to reach the end! More please, Ms Ware!
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Hal is struggling. She is broke, she is trying to fend off loan sharks and she is alone since her mother's death. When a letter comes from a solicitor in Cornwall saying that she has been left a legacy it seems a gift from above. Reading the letter more closely she fears there may be a mistake but after a scary encounter with the loan sharks enforcer she decided to go to the funeral of her benefactor and see what is what.

The house in Cornwall is in a poor state but she is given a warm welcome from those who believe her to be their niece. The feeling of family is even more enticing than the chance to escape her debts. However there is one person who is very suspicious & that is the scary housekeeper- Mrs Warren- definitely echos of Mrs Danvers from Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca'!

When Hal realises she is not just a benefactor but THE benefactor, getting away without revealing her deception looks almost impossible. She wants to find out more about her mother and to find out who her father was.In a house full of secrets she begins to worry about her safety!

This was a gripping story told well. I couldn't put it down. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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I loved this book which took me right back into the reasons I love crime fiction so much. All the way through I was incredibly impressed by the fact that although I knew I was reading a contemporary novel, nevertheless the setting and the prose were so reminiscent of an Agatha Christie old house mystery that my mind would deceive me into thinking I was in the past.

Hal Westaway lives in a small Brighton flat. Up to her ears in debt, she had to give up all hopes of college after the death of her mother in a hit and run accident and so she slid into her mother’ role as a tarot reader on Brighton pier. Pursued by thugs from the local loan shark, she is barely eking out a living when a letter from heaven drops in her lap. Well, maybe not heaven, but from a solicitor promising her an inheritance, and that’s as close as Hal is going to get to heaven. Because Hal’s talent is in reading people from cold and that’s what makes her tarot business tick over with repeat customers.

So when she gets the letter saying her deceased grandmother has left her money, she’s pretty clear that it’s not meant for her, but she can use the money and she reckons she can carry off an impersonation if there’s money in it for her.

Now Hal, or Harriet as she was christened, is not a bad young woman, merely pretty desperate. So  to avoid the thugs, she sets out for the deceased’s family home, Trepassen House in Cornwall.

If she can convince the solicitor and the family of the deceased woman that she is entitled to a bequest, she will take the money and run as quickly as she can.

Trepassen House turns out to be huge, crumbling and very cold. It is a gloomy house of gothic proportions that fairly shrieks of ghosts and secrets.  Trepassen House is ruled over by Mrs Warren, a woman with strong overtones of Mrs Danvers from Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Hardly welcoming, she shows Hal into an attic bedroom under the eaves which is colder than the grave her so called grandmother is buried in.

The others from the Westaway family she meets are hardly more welcoming, though her new ‘family’ are outwardly friendly though bemused by her existence. Sadly for Hal, who begins to have second thoughts about her deception once the size of her inheritance is revealed, it is clear that she’s going to have to stay around for a while whether she wants to or not.

A combination of unavoidable delays and atrocious weather maroons her in Cornwall and leads her into dangerous territory as she tries to find out what her connection to the Westaway family really is at the same time as carrying off her impersonation.

Ruth Ware manages to build up a magnificent suspenseful atmosphere which beautifully conveys the creepiness of the house and the menace that lies within it. The pace is slow but a beautifully paced slow so that the burn creeps up on you and you are on fire before you realise it.

Dark, creepy, gothic, contemporary, this is a story of families, secrets and horribly dark doings that should belong in the Victorian era but sadly are all too real and contemporary.

Sharply drawn, beautifully nuanced and with a heroine in Hal that you absolutely root for, this is a terrifically good novel with slight supernatural undertones and a definite gothic twist.

Verdict: Not to be missed. A dark and dramatic contemporary thriller with a gothic twist.
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This was a really well written book. The characters are strong and  there are definitely shades of Agatha Christie. Plenty of family intrigue and insight into their relationships. 
What would you have done in Hal's position if that opportunity had arisen?
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I've read Ruth Ware's first two books and whilst I enjoyed them, I think she's gone to another level with the fantastic The Death of Mrs Westaway. Despite being set mostly in the present day, it has a very gothic feel that almost belongs in a different era. I think the author did an amazing job at creating that level of atmosphere without having to take us back to Victorian times or the 1930s/40s.

Harriet Westaway, known as Hal, reads tarot cards on Brighton Pier. She's young and is just getting over the death of her mother, living in a small flat and owing money to the potentially violent Mr Smith. So a letter telling her that she is a beneficiary in her late grandmother's will is very welcome, except Hal doesn't have any family. Or does she?

Hal is a fantastic creation. She's clever and used to telling the people she reads for exactly what they need to know. So she knows that she could possibly pull off a deception - can she pretend to be Mrs Westaway's long lost granddaughter? She needs the money, after all.

Trepassen House in Cornwall, the home of the late Mrs Westaway, is the archetypal gothic dwelling. I could imagine creeping round it, peering into all the rooms trying to work out where I should be and getting completely lost. But the house is well past its prime and the lack of upkeep only adds to Hal's sense of unease whilst she is there. It makes it all so much more creepy. Not to mention the housekeeper, Mrs Warren, who has her own suite of very private rooms. She's rather unpleasant and Hal doesn't know why she seems to have it in for her.

There's nothing like a novel chock full of family secrets and the Westaways have plenty of them. Hal meets Harding, Abel and Ezra, the sons of the late Mrs Westaway. Can she trust any of them? Can Hal herself be trusted, given that she is trying pass herself off as somebody she is not, the daughter of the late Maud Westaway. It's all so deliciously dark, sinister and thrilling and despite Hal's deception I was rooting for her, hoping that she could escape Trepassen House and build a better future for herself.

I read this book in instalments and I have to say that I couldn't wait to read the next one. It's truly a gripping story and I didn't see any of what happened coming. It's full of twists and I delighted in each one. Ruth Ware has written such a compelling and addictive story and I highly recommend it.
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What's it about?

Harriet Westaway is struggling to make ends meet, eking out an existence as a fortune teller on Brighton pier. So when she receives a letter telling her that her Cornish grandmother has died, she senses a way out of her troubles. 

There's just one problem: her grandmother died twenty years ago. However, her problems are of significant enough magnitude for her to go along with it, in the hopes that she'll inherit something to tide her over. 

But there are consequences to this decision, and soon Harriet becomes embroiled in events that could cost her everything, even her life.

My thoughts

I picked this up on the train to Copenhagen airport, and I put it down roughly 5 hours later at home in York. It's been a long time since I found a book that was truly unputdownable, but this is one. 

I was a little wary of approaching it; I wasn't a fan of the other Ruth Ware novel I've read, The Woman in Cabin 10. I previously said I'd read more of Ware's books, but I hoped she'd think the plot through a bit more. With this one, I reckon she has. Her style remains very readable, but there's a bit more thought in how events play out.

It also helps that she appears a bit more familiar with the locations she's writing about, unlike in her previous novel*. Happily, the locations in this new novel seem more researched. Having said that, I've never been to Brighton or Cornwall, so I've got no real frame of reference, but it would seem daft to make similar factual errors in different novels.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed it. The fortune telling was new to me, and it was a nice change to have a protagonist who doesn't work in marketing or journalism. I found the character of Harriet (Hal) to be sympathetic and believable, and I empathised with her new family struggles. I didn't guess the twist (fully), and it reminded me a little of Agatha Christie in how she neatly dropped clues in and let them develop. Actually, I said The Woman in Cabin 10 reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express, so maybe that's Ware's style. There were also echoes of Rebecca in the crumbling Cornish mansion and the motley family crew. 

With regards to the other characters, I liked how distinct they were, and how they had their own stories. Often I find that second tier characters in crime novels are just there to provide padding, but these had their own events unfolding too. However, I did find the housekeeper character, Mrs Warren, a little too reminiscent of Mrs Danvers for comfort. Perhaps Mrs Danvers is so synonymous with unfriendly housekeepers that any version less than matronly is derivative, but more distinction would have worked.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, for sure. If you're after a readable modern crime novel with echoes of Christie and du Maurier, this is for you. 

*In WiC10, the ferry leaves from Hull dock, and she gets the train there. Now, if you've ever been to Hull, you'll know that firstly, the station is nowhere near the ferry terminal, and secondly, to walk across that dock is to take your life into your hands. You just wouldn't do it.
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