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The Death of Mrs. Westaway Hardcover – May 29, 2018
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—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
"A classic never goes out of style. Consider the confident simplicity of the dry martini, the Edison lightbulb and Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. Now, add to that list Ruth Ware’s new novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway… a perfectly executed suspense tale very much in the mode of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca."
"[A] captivating and eerie page-turner."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Ware's novels continue to evoke comparison to Agatha Christie; they certainly have that classic flavor despite the contemporary settings. Expertly paced, expertly crafted."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ware’s fourth novel is her best yet, with steadily increasing tension, a complicated twisty mystery, and a sharp, sympathetic heroine who’s up to the challenge of solving it… well-crafted, gothic-tinged suspense.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Ware, who, with a run of acclaimed thrillers, including The Lying Game (2017), has established herself as one of today’s most popular suspense writers, twists the knife quite expertly here… The labyrinth Ware has devised here is much more winding than expected, with reveals even on the final pages… a clever heroine and an atmospheric setting, accented by wisps of meaning that drift from the tarot cards."
—Booklist (starred review)
"Evocative prose, artfully shaded characters, and a creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere keep the pages of this explosive family drama turning."
"This British writer knows how to hook crime-novel/psychological suspense fans."
"I’ve adored Ruth Ware’s work for some time, ever since I picked up her first playful puzzler of a mystery, In a Dark, Dark Wood. She’s been making her way through classic mystery settings, making each her own, and her new volume promises to continue the trend, in a tale of a con artist headed to a family funeral that promises to be the most entertaining fictional British burial since the film Death at a Funeral first graced our screens."
"Fans of The Woman in Cabin 10, rejoice. Ruth Ware is bringing you another page-turning tale of suspense... Thrilling and clever, The Death of Mrs. Westaway will be hard to put down."
About the Author
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This is a well written mystery thriller, totally worth the read. If you want War and Peace, buy Tolstoy.
I won’t give major spoilers, I’ll just say why I found it so compelling:
The suspense and subtle dread. I had to know what the next page held.
The great character study. A classic whodunnit. Was it him? Her? Him? Who?! I truly didn’t know until the end. The twists and red herrings were perfectly done ... not exploiting the reader at all, but how the story moved organically. They made complete sense, and that’s rare nowadays in this genre. I also loved how, even though Mrs Westaway had passed on, her presence was still felt so menacingly and strongly. I mean, yes, the book centered around her actions ... but instead of her being a vague idea, this cloud of doom, I felt like she might actually come around the corner at any time. The housekeeper, of course, did do just that, often, and was quite the scary character! Not in a cheesy way, no, the tension and malignancy she brought was very well done. I love family sagas, especially about old English families and estates, and this certainly delivered that!
The wonderful descriptions of the mood and setting. I felt like I was there, in that cold, drafty old house that held so many secrets and heartache. My only minor complaint about that — I would’ve liked a bit more closure regarding the attic room and how a certain someone in the past was basically held prisoner there.
The emotions! Hal is so likable, so strong, yet vulnerable. I desperately wanted things to get better for her. I cheered her on and felt what she felt. And then the family — a mixture of both sympathy and, “One or more of you is the bad person(s) here, so I’m hesitant to like you or feel compassion”. It’s fun not knowing. Ms Ware shaped them all so well, letting the reader come to their own conclusions, nothing was overtly obvious. So many books in this genre fall into cliches; this one never did. And I like how the family grappled at first with embracing Hal ... this complete stranger thrust into their lives/complicated emotions regarding their mother, her death, and the house. That aspect was another so well done. I liked them all for most of the book, but again, knew evil lurked among them, and knew some of my sympathy would be wasted at some point.
The side story with Hal and the loan sharks. Fear for her.
The great research Ms Ware must have done, and included, about Tarot cards/readings. Not a subject I’ve ever believed or had much interest in, but wow, I really got into it more and more ... and the explanations of how Hal and her mother didn’t take it literally, but could read them figuratively. It was so fascinating to me.
The ending was great. I won’t say more, just that it was satisfying in many ways. Again, rare for this genre. It makes me wish I was in a book club, I want to discuss this book with others!
Thank you, Ms Ware, for such an entertaining book! It was well worth the wait. I’m just sad it’s over and that we won’t get to see how young Hal’s life turned out afterwards. I’ll miss her and the family (well, some of them). I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just psychological suspense fans. And I really think this would make a great movie!
I thought it boring - predictable and frankly I found myself skipping forward - main character should have angst for a middle name - could have been half as long - no surprises and dialogue repeated over and over
Wait for it to go on sale if you still want to read!
Top international reviews
I was expecting a mystery with a gothic feel. After all, a long-lost inheritance, a supposed scam, family secrets and a stately pile in Cornwall, complete with a sinister housekeeper sounded like Agatha Christie by way of Daphne du Maurier. Unfortunately, though, this is a book full of literary tropes and clichés, none of which are executed particularly well.
If you haven't read this novel yet and don't want any spoilers, stop reading now.
My first issue (which seemed like a recurrent problem) was how much repetition the author threw into certain parts. For example, she spends a long time establishing that Hal (the young woman who believes she's been mistakenly left in the eponymous Mrs Westaway's will) is a decent person but has fallen on hard times. There's the unpaid bills, threatening debt collectors, insufficient money for meals ... It seems that the early chapters are an attempt to establish how and why Hal decides to pretend she's Mrs Westaway's granddaughter, even though she knows she's not. And this theme resurfaces later on. And while I understand the author wants to paint the main protagonist in a positive light, it just felt too long and too laboured. It's the same with all the tarot readings throughout the book, which just felt like filler material. I got bored in the end by Hal's constant references to tarot.
My next issue was with Trepassen House itself and the location. What a wasted opportunity. The author simply failed to paint a convincing or gripping enough picture of an old, decrepit home in a remote Cornish location. In fact, there was nothing of Cornwall about this novel at all - it could have been set anywhere. Apart from the odd reference to the sea or cliffs, or someone's Cornish burr, it just didn't work. It was woefully disappointing in this respect. What could have been dark, gloomy and sinister was simply droll. And the same goes for the housekeeper - there just wasn't enough done with the character. At one point, when Hal feels sure she's being spied on by her and that she may, in fact, be able to walk without her cane, my interest was piqued. However, this didn't really go anywhere - and it never was explained how the housekeeper had seemed to manage to move around easily after all.
The plot itself is so predictable. At one point, where Hal is considering if it could possibly be true and she really was Mrs Westaway's long lost granddaughter, I actually inserted a note on my Kindle saying: 'no, you're her great niece'. And that was it, at 31% in (sooner, actually) I had the plot figured out. And, believe me, I'm not someone who's that great at working out plots. But this one was paper thin. The problem is, there's a relatively small cast of characters, you know there's a family secret, you know from diary entries that the person writing them is Hal's mother (and that she's a cousin of the Westaways) - and I also figured out that her father had to be one of the cousins (thus making her a niece and a granddaughter too). It wasn't exactly a knotty mystery.
Really, I was glad to finish this book and move on to another. It felt formulaic, unimaginative and there just wasn't enough atmosphere or pace to it to make it a good read. The cover was fantastic though - just a shame the book itself didn't live up to that.
I found this to be quite the dark and haunting story, set against the glorious and slightly creepy feeling of a neglected mansion. It oozes atmosphere and has that delightful gothic vibe to it. The immensely mysterious and character-driven plot full of intrigue had me completely enthralled from start to finish and Ruth Ware’s brilliant writing totally won me over.
Ruth’s passion for research comes across in bucket loads. The beautiful way she described the individual tarot cards was almost spellbinding but the story just didn’t have enough balls for me.
This novel derailed my reading plans, and I have no regrets. After reading a blogged review, I had to discover more so I read the sample and was swept into Hal’s world.
I felt her dilemmas as she struggled to make finances stretch – and fend off loan sharks – as she side-stepped through life as a tarot card reader. Like Hal, I lived in Brighton – although never all-but-on-the-streets. Full marks to Ruth Ware for resurrecting the West Pier – artistic licence at its best. Plus, I’ve had experiences with tarot cards – but not as a card reader.
Anyway, I knew that the answer must lie in the mysterious letter that Hal receives, tempting her with an inheritance that she knows isn’t hers. She had to attempt to claim the money, so I had to buy the book as I needed to keep reading.
She entered another world, Trepassen House, facing another class, one where money seems to grant advantages, even privileges – but there are consequences. Love can be a rarer commodity in such circles, unlike Hal’s childhood, ironically.
However, Hal and the reader are plunged into the menacing world of the country house – Gothic with wonderful details that rang true for me. I grew up in that world, so the house and its occupants came alive – except that was as much the author’s words and their phrasing.
Hal isn’t fully prepared for the Westaway family and all the secrets. Yet, she has the skills to adapt to the situation – not an easy feat as even I would struggle. Families and inheritance can be vicious whatever is at stake – I’ve been there, and it never ends, for some. I recognised too many of the family members and aspects of key supporting characters. I wanted to discover what those secrets were, and who was determined to stop Hal at any cost. Mrs Westaway might be dead, but she had left a legacy that posed questions. Why did she make that will? What did she know? What happened at Trepassen?
There were elements that were pure Daphne du Maurier, so I was amused when someone mentioned Mrs Danvers. But this was gothic intrigue meets internet revelations – but only when there is a signal and no distractions. Trepassen’s remote Cornish setting – another Rebecca echo - with its charming magpies, adds to the menacing atmosphere.
Although the third-person deep POV of Hal carries the main story-line, the unidentified first-person diary entries are a clever addition. For me, that diary added new questions and new scenarios. The entries also added red herrings for unwary readers like me. At one point, I thought I had identified the writer and resolved what was happening. Wrong. Yes, I realised before the end, but not entirely. So, I was pleasantly surprised at what had really happened, especially as all the clues were there – just cleverly disguised.
Five days after Hal pulled me from Brighton to Cornwall, I had finished this novel – that’s fast for me. I was tempted to drop everything to discover what the author had so artfully contrived – and I was never disappointed.
A well-deserved five stars.
Story – five stars
Setting/World-building – five stars
Authenticity – five stars
Characters – five stars
Structure – five stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars
I'm an avid fan of page-turning mystery thrillers with those jaw-dropping plots twists...Gone Girl...The Girl on The Train...so I was thrilled to find my next read that definitely met my favoured expectations in The Death of Mrs Westaway.
Unlike many of the book's genre companions', it was refreshing to read a book where the protagonist/narrator was likeable, someone I wanted to root for. She certainly makes questionable choices, but they are led with compassion, a conscious, and a desire to do what she truly thinks is right at the time.
This is the type of book that reveals shocking twists and turns just when you think you have everything figured out...and I devoured it in under 3 days.
The only reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars is because I felt the beginning was slow, and took longer than necessary to build momentum, in my opinion. I also was not personally a fan of all the details that went into Tarot card readings.
However, overall, excellent read and certainly hope a film is made out of this one!
Enter creepy housekeeper Mrs Warren, Hal’s new ‘uncles’ Harding, Ezra and Abel, and a dilapidated old house. The plot almost writes itself.
I have read and loved all of Ruth Ware’s previous books, so I jumped on the opportunity to read this one as soon as I could get my hands on it. However, this story felt slow to me, and for some reason I kept getting some of the characters mixed up; I felt like there wasn’t enough about them for me to ‘know’ them properly. The addition of tarot cards felt like a struggle, as each time they appeared, the author had to do a complete ‘how to’ guide on what each card could possible mean, which slowed things down. I’m glad I read this book, but it was tough going, and it won’t be going back on the ‘to be read’ pile, unlike Ware’s previous work.
Hal has long believed her grandparents passed away many years ago and this must all be some kind of mistake. However, working as a struggling tarot reader at the end of Brighton pier and owing money to loan sharks, Hal sees this as a golden opportunity to dig herself out of the hole she has found herself in.
She goes to Cornwall, attends the old lady's funeral and meets the family, where it soon becomes clear to her that her conscience is taking over and she can't go through with her bid to take a few hundred pounds to ease her troubles and move on with her life.
It soon becomes clear to Hal that there are a whole host of family secrets laying dormant in this once grand family plot and she is actually smack bang in the heart of it all.
But can she discover the answers to the questions she has about her mother and the Westaway family before something, or someone tries to stop her in her tracks?
I really enjoyed this book and having read some of the more negative reviews after I finished, I struggle to understand them. Proving my theory that it's always best to read reviews after you form your own opinion.
This is the first book I've read by Ruth Ware, although I do have her others waiting for me on my Kindle, so I am very much looking forward to moving on to those now.
Hal (Harriet) Westaway is living alone in Brighton, struggling to make ends meet by reading tarot cards on the pier. She’s in debt to money lenders who’ve threatened her. She receives a solicitor’s letter requesting her presence at Trepassen House, in Cornwall for ‘her grandmother’s will reading’. Hal decides to go to Cornwall and so begins the twisty mystery of disjointed families, death, money and rightful heirs.
Ruth Ware keeps the mystery of the protagonist going throughout. When I thought I knew who ‘the baddy’ was, my mind was changed at the turn of a page.
I would recommend this book. It’s better than much of the tosh that’s turned out these days and whilst not wildly exciting- it’s a steady, thinkers conundrum.
This is such an atmospheric, slightly creepy and sinister feeling read. Cornwall lends itself so well and adds to the atmospherics of the novel and provides a wonderful backdrop to the story. Add to that an old creepy house with a severe housekeeper in the form of Mrs Warren and tarot cards to add an extra level of chills.
The plot with Hal taking off from her tarot reading booth on Brighton Pier to accept an inheritance was so addictive. It had that rags to riches theme, well almost… Almost because Hal is not sure that she is indeed the right person. The tension builds as I found myself wondering if Hal would go through with her plans, or whether she back out. Is she the real deal or is she a mistaken identity? Well, these thoughts and others kept me turning the pages.
The author excelled in the way she portrayed Hal, I found myself caring about her and what would happen. Would she be in danger? How was she going to manage to pay her bills? Would she be able to keep her booth on the Pier? Yes I know these are everyday concerns, well apart from the danger one, but it is the everyday things that help a reader to understand a character.
Hal has some real heart-stopping moments and also discovers more about who she is and also about her mum and family. Not everything she had been told was the truth! She has dealt with a rough past a tough present and, now has to deal with being part of a scenario that could make the future one that she could never expect.
This is not an action packed read, in fact it is a slower pace as the tension simmers and grows. The author has created a story that gripped me from the first few pages, the tension built and I could not put this one down!
This is a fabulous and mysteriously compelling read. and one I would absolutely recommend.
For twenty-one-year-old protagonist, Harriet “Hal” Westaway, life has been an uphill struggle, both emotionally and financially since her mother, Maggie’s, tragic death in a hit-and-run fatality three years previously. Propelled from a path of A-Levels and university into adulthood, not only has Hal taken over her mother’s tarot reading booth on Brighton Pier where she plies her cold reading trade under the name of “Madame Margarida”, she is using the crutch of alcohol to stave off her grief and loneliness. With a threatening loan shark breathing down her neck for repayment off a high-interest loan, an unexpected letter naming her as a beneficiary in the will of a grandmother she knew nothing of offers hope of a fresh start.
As far as Hal knew her real grandmother was already dead but the fortuitous invitation to the reading of the will and an expected bequest of several thousand pounds seems small fry by the size of the estate and grounds of Trespassen House. But when Hal’s arrival at the family estate meets with the less than welcoming Mrs Warren, a creepy elderly housekeeper with a decidedly chippy manner, and Mrs Westaway’s three suspicious sons, her resolve is tested. As hostile eldest son, Harding, quizzes Hal on her family credentials, disconcerting vibes from Abel and Ezra also give her cause for concern.
Soon Hal’s small deception starts to nag on her conscious as she finds it harder to keep up the lie of belonging to the family and desperately wanting to escape the confines of run-down Trespassen House. The ominous surroundings might not bode well, but an opportunity to uncover some family secrets and finally learn more about a mother whose life was cut brutally short is far too tempting for Hal. As her discoveries leave Mrs Westaway’s sons reassessing their own past and facing some revelations of their own, Hal’s involvement in the lives of a group of strangers deepens. Might Hal really be part of the family or does danger await the longer she stays amidst the privileged and eccentric clan?
As a lead character, Harriet “Hal” Westaway, is a captivating protagonist; immediately likeable, easy to empathise with, intelligent, determined, stoic in the face of adversity and with more than a little integrity. Not only is she fiercely protective of her mother’s memory she is also admirably honest with herself, readily acknowledging her desire to be part of a family and wanting the safety net of a host of supportive relations to rely on. Despite deducing several of the impending revelations ahead of Ruth Ware’s slow-burning novel I was more than happy as a passenger; the evocative writing and depth of characterisation throughout made it a pleasure. Compelling, engrossing and a brilliantly satisfying read.
Everything was fine till the end. I did a double-take. The villain didn't make sense, nor the villain's motives. Unfortunately, that rather ruined the book for me.
I read over two days and didn't want to put it away wanting to get to the crunch at the end. Unfortunately I figured out the plot about two thirds of the way through the book and then my enthusiasm waned. After that I just wanted the author to get on with the story.
The ending was predictable . A good read whilst in the throes of the book but a day afterwards I thought just ok. I so want to find a book where the ending is just staggering and unpredictable. The search continues.