The Death of Mrs Westaway

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Although the 'gimmick' of appearing in place of a heiress is hard to wear, and it does not work entirely well for the heroine Hal. In fact she is meant to be there! In the end, it was  the bare style of writing that impressed me, strangely - matching Hal herself in some ways. No flounces or light wit but just straight ploughing forward. It's the strength of the writing and after a while, it began to feel to grim - I did not like Hal, really. And I think I am meant to admire her grit and her capacity to survive. We get immessed with her in a family when there is a surprising discovery - her father! - so perhaps the letter did not go astray??!!  And murderous intent that did not entirely convince me. Extremely impressive and professional writing -  however, i just did not warm to it ...
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Deeply atmospheric, and steeped in the Gothic, The Death of Mrs Westaway is by far the best book Ruth Ware has written thus far (and I say this having read all of them bar The Lying Game but I'll assume my statement will still stand after reading that one too). 

Harriet 'Hal' Westaway is a tarot reader at the Brighton Pier. Broke, in trouble and alone she receives a letter from a mysterious benefactor bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. With limited options and a loan shark on her back, Hal decides to fradulently claim this inheritance as her own, but when she arrives as the Westaway family home, she quickly finds herself immersed in a rich family history breaking apart at the seams. There's something dark and sinister at bay in this family built upon betrayal and greed. 

I truly cannot rave about how much I loved this book enough. Gone was your typical unreliable (and often alcoholic) narrator and instead was Hal Westaway: brazen, headstrong and determined to survive. She had depth and relatability and was such a joy to read. I couldn't rest until I had my answers, and even though Hal's real father was glaringly obvious from the moment she met the Westaway's, the reveal itself was shocking and a delightful twist. 

If Ruth Ware continues to write more books like this one then I will be impatently waiting for every new release because I need more books like The Death of Mrs. Westaway.
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This one didn't work quite as well for me as The Lying Game; I found the characters were not as engaging and the pacing felt a bit off at times. However, it is still an engaging and enjoyable story with lots going for it: an old family home falling into disrepair, an unexpected inheritance, a dysfunctional family with lots of secrets
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I am a great fan of Ruth Ware and have read every book she has published.  I always await the next publication and jumped at the chance to read The Death of Mrs Westaway. And yet again the author had delivered a phenomenal read. 
Thoroughly enjoyed this book and it comes with a high recommendation
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The Death of Mrs Westaway is, in my opinion, Ruth Ware’s best book yet. It is part gothic mystery, part psychological thriller, part whodunit and part whatisgoingon!

I found Hal to be a very sympathetic character – she’s grieving, she’s torn about how she makes a living but she’s trying to do her best. I found the descriptions of the tarot deck and her cold reading techniques fascinating. It was a bit like watching Hustle – you know she’s doing something unethical, probably illegal, but you’re still cheering her on to succeed throughout the book.

The supporting cast of characters are all well drawn and each brings something crucial to the narrative. The story itself is brilliantly plotted, running back and forth in time with dual narrations, allowing a complex web of secrets, lies and tragedy to be gradually exposed and some great twists to surprise you.

The locations are all very atmospheric, from cold, wet and windy Brighton and Hal’s small flat to gloomy, run down, forbidding Trepassen House, with its creepy rooms, grounds and lake. I could clearly picture it all and could see The Death of Mrs Westaway making a great mini series.

I loved this book and am hugely grateful to NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for the ARC of The Death of Mrs Westaway.
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Thanks Netgalley and the Publisher.  This has to be up the top of the best books I have read in 2018.  I cannot rate this highly enough.  Fantastic read.
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I've enjoyed all of Ruth's books and this is by far the best title and story. Ruth writes so well it puts her a cut above most thriller writers.
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Loved this intriguing book especially as I have a friend who is a Tarot reader. I could not put it down as I could not wait to see how Hal was going to get out of this situation. Great family drama.
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While I enjoyed this book, I wasn't blown away by it. It felt contrived, bordering on the ridiculous at times. Some of the characters were great but some felt like they had been dropped into the plot purely for the sake of adding some red herrings. 

There's lots to like about this book but I'm probably not its biggest fan.
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Hal Westaway is eking out a living as a tarot reader on a seaside pier. Lonely and struggling financially, her prayers seem to have been answered when she receives a letter telling her that she's the beneficiary of a large fortune left by her grandmother. Quickly realising that it must be a mistake, a desperate Hal makes the decision to play along in the hopes of gaining a slice of the cake. However, from the minute she arrives at the imposing Trespassen House and meets the rest of the Westway family she realises all is not as it seems.

Ruth Ware is one the first writers I ever reviewed on Netgalley when I read her excellent "In a Dark Dark Wood" She's written consistently addictive novels since then and this book shows how she's grown further as a writer. Hal is an imperfect character but is also extremely sympathetic. Living alone since her mother's death and constantly struggling for money, Ruth Ware really captures what its like to live that existence on the breadline. The seaside setting exacerbates Hal's difficulties too, especially in the off season where the cold bites and the tourists are few and far between. Trepassen House is equally atmospheric. Far from being an opulent mansion, it's old and dilapidated and the house keeper is openly hostile to Hal (eerily reminiscent of Mrs Danvers!). The more Hal gets to know the rest of the family the more she becomes equally curious and guilt ridden making for an exciting conclusion. anyone who reads books in this genre loves a good twist and this book is no exception. If Ruth Ware continues to write to this standard then count me as first in the queue for her next book!

I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
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I’ve enjoyed Ruth Ware’s psychological thrillers in the past but this book is a bit of a departure from that format. The story revolves around Harriet (Hal) Westaway, a quiet and introverted young woman who receives a letter from a solicitor in Cornwall informing her of in inheritance from her grandmother. Hal is suspicious at first, as apart from her late mother she wasn’t aware of any other relatives, but the substantial debts she has accumulated since her mother’s death and the increasingly menacing visits from loan sharks mean that Hal puts all her doubts aside and travels to Trepassen House, the Westaway family seat, to investigate.

This is much more of a traditional old country house mystery/family drama than Ware’s previous books. At Trepassen House Hal is immersed in a tangled web of family secrets, hidden diaries and dark truths. I enjoyed the Gothic undertones, the array of interesting and sympathetic characters and the resolution of the central mystery surrounding Hal’s identity. I hope Ruth Ware continues to write in this vein rather than adding to the over-saturated domestic-noir market.
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Ruth Ware’s latest novel, opens on our protagonist Harriet—known as Hal—trudging through rain and wind with a fish and chips she can’t really afford under her arm. Hal does tarot readings on Brighton pier: she inherited the booth from her mother, who died in a hit-and-run accident three years ago. Now twenty-one, Hal has unwisely taken money from a local loan shark, and is in desperate need of three thousand pounds before his steel-toed-boot-wearing enforcers come around. So when a case of mistaken identity results in a letter from a lawyer’s office in Penzance, referring to her as the beneficiary of her grandmother’s will, she decides she might as well use her cold-reading techniques to see what she can get. When it turns out that the bequest isn’t just a few thousand pounds, but most of the estate, Hal realises she has two choices: confess now, or stay in it for the long haul. She chooses, of course, the latter, but things at Trepassen aren’t what they seem, and she finds herself unraveling a conspiracy of silence that stretches back decades. This is the first of Ruth Ware’s novels that I’ve read (a shocking admission given how well they go down at Heywood Hill), and it’s highly impressive. It’s so easy to lose the thread of thriller plotting, particularly when your subgenre is psychological intrigue, where so many of the significant plot points happen inside characters’ heads, but Ware never does: there’s always that sense of forward momentum, no scenes that feel like they’re treading water. Tarot, and the interplay between superstition, fate, and self-determination, is woven through the book: is life something Hal can navigate for herself, or does the past determine the present? Ware deals with these questions subtly, and creates a protagonist whose constant calculations are made necessary and sympathetic by the precariousness of her situation. Very good stuff indeed.
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Hal Westaway is not in a good place in life. A few years ago her mum Maggie was killed in a hit-and-run accident outside their ramshackle Brighton flat, and struggling to make ends meet and pay for the rent on her seafront tarot kiosk, Hal has taken out a small loan from a local ‘lender’. Having missed a couple of payments, the lender has been sending his heavies out looking for Hal, the ‘interest’ on the loan has increased by 5x at least, and she’s running scared.

When a letter arrives telling her that she is to inherit part of her  late Grandmother’s ‘substantial’ estate as the daughter of Mrs Westaway’s only daughter, Maud, she’s confused. Rightly so – she’s never known her father or his parents (she was the result of a drunken one night stand) and Hal’s maternal grandparents passed away over 20 years ago. But the letter is definitely addressed to her, at her current address, and as it sits next to the threatening note left by her lender’s heavies, in her freezing cold and rundown flat, an idea starts to form.

Hal, uncomfortable with this decision, but not sure how else she can escape the trouble she’s in, grabs the last pennies she has and heads to the family estate to meet the family Westaway.

Hal’s arrival puts the cat right amongst the pigeons. Secrets are flying around everwhere and thought she is welcomed into the fold, there is something very clearly wrong at the Westaway estate and when a photograph comes to light of the family alongside Hal’s late mother, Hal realises that this more than just a case of mistaken identity. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she is in for more than a few surprises, and at what cost?

This is a wonderfully written book, I read it in two sittings, as I just didn’t want to put it down. Hal is a nuanced character, although she’s doing something she believes to be wrong, she is doing so because she is desperate, and you cannot help but root for her. The supporting characters are believable and rounded and the plot is rich and full of surprises. I was entertained until the very last page.
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I was really looking forward to reading this book as the premise held possibilities but unfortunately for me it fell way short of expectations.  This book was a slow burner that never quite heated up.  I was about 75% in before any action took place but by this time it was too late and what little action that did take place didn't improve my overall impression of the book.
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Couldn't put this one down and read it in one sitting.  An eerie tale, well paced and well written.  Highly Recommended.
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A tale filled with secrets and one that is deliciously creepy.

Harriet has been left a large house by her grandmother in a will. On reaching Trepassen House, she finds unfriendly relatives and a house that seems to be warning her to leave.

The only thing is Hal is not really the person she says she is.  This is fantastic tale. It is a brilliantly told novel and I really got engrossed very quickly.

I loved the eerie setting and I absolutely loved it
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I always really want to like this author because I love her ideas, and I think we need good modern gothic fiction for women. However it never seems to work, I think because her main characters are always SO reduced and on the back foot you kind of feel apathetic about them. Hal in this story was the same, she had so much going wrong I just couldn't quite believe her or get behind her. The piteousness of her just seemed too much. 

The idea of the story was a good one and I believe there is a fantastic tarot card novel waiting to be written, but this wasn't it. Straight away we were told Hal didn't believe in her cards, so I didn't either and the mysticism was lost. And so it became a run of the mill family discovery story. 

But it was so confusing even now on finishing the book I am still not quite sure who Hal's mother was, and the motive of the killer was unbelievable. Why would he want to kill his sister, his lover, the housekeeper and his daughter just to hide the fact he had an illegitimate child? He knew he wasn't getting the inheritance so what was all that murder for? Unless I am missing something?  

Also the descriptions seemed repetitive - every time Hal picked something up it was 'held in front of her like a shield'. 

Rather unsatisfying sadly because as I say I always really want to love this author.
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Young girl inherits large house from relative she doesn’t know.  Here we go again? Wrong. This book is nothing like that at all. This book changes all your perceptions of what a book that starts off this way will be about.mots full of twists and turns and keeps the reader in suspense until the end.
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A creepy mystery filled with family secrets. 4/5 stars.

With her latest book, Ruth Ware brings us a different angle on the disappeared person mystery. Rather than a professional or amateur sleuth digging to uncover the truth, our investigator is Hal, a young woman attempted to con her way to an inheritance.

Fans of mystery tales will get into and feel at home with this story quickly because it contains so many familiar elements from other stories in the genre. For example: the Agatha Christiesque large house, an extended family gathering and a will reading. There are also knowing touches of du Maurier, with one of the characters actually saying that the spooky housekeeper is a bit Mrs Danvers! The author exploits these features to keep us guessing, setting us up for the story to go in one direction before swerving off in another.

The protagonist – Hal – is a reluctant con artist and her situation wins our sympathy. I enjoyed the mostly practical, proactive way she went about ingratiating herself into the Westaway family and investigating her past. The use of tarot was interesting as both a way to explain Hal’s people-reading skills, but also to give us insight into her personality and those of the other characters.

The writing is clear and vivid, making it easy to whizz through the book in an afternoon. In fact, I think the story would be best enjoyed with as few breaks as possible so you can stay immersed in the oppressive atmosphere of Trepassen House and follow the momentum of the story. Reading it in a couple of sittings also gave me a fighting chance of working out what was going on and I’m pleased to say I kept up quite well. There were several surprises, although none of them came as total shocks as Hal’s investigations had laid the groundwork for the reveals.

The tone and events of the narrative are spooky and chilling in places, but I think I was expecting more of a thriller. The Death of Mrs Westaway is a mostly a mystery with some darker spots, although right at the end there is a tense sequence as secrets are revealed and the story comes to a climax.

Overall: good holiday reading for anyone looking for a different approach to a traditional family mystery story.
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Dark and mysterious, it does seem to be influenced by Daphne du Maurier. I found it a very unusual page-turner set in Brighton and Cornwall.
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