Book Review: “The Death of Mrs. Westaway”, by Ruth Ware

The death of bitter, vindictive Mrs. Westaway sets off a chain of events that unearth long-buried secrets. Full of atmosphere and plot twists, this suspense novel is a real page turner.

Harriet Westaway (aka Hal) is a young, professional tarot card reader who is struggling financially and emotionally. Since the death of her mother three years ago she has been lonely and utterly alone, with no friends or family to fall back on. Her tarot card gig doesn’t bring in enough money to pay her bills. Now a loan shark is threatening her with violence if she doesn’t pay him within the next week.

Then, Hal receives a letter implying that she might have been named as a beneficiary in her recently deceased grandmother’s will. The only problem is that her grandparents have been dead for decades. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, but with a threatening loan shark in the picture she feels like she has no choice – she decides to go to the funeral and play the part of the long lost granddaughter, hoping to score some inheritance money. Afterall, those rich folks can afford it!

Hal turns out to be a lousy con artist. She blushes and stammers and finds herself actually liking some of the people she’s trying to con. Those people think she’s the daughter of their long lost sister, Maud. Maud’s three brothers are now Hal’s “uncles” and Hal likes the feeling of having an extended family. What she doesn’t like is the Westaway mansion that they’re all staying in. It’s cold and decaying and comes with a creepy old housekeeper, lots of sinister magpies and an attic bedroom with locks on the outside of the door. Very gothic.

As Hal gets to know her new “family” and explore the estate, she senses something is very off. Things aren’t adding up and it’s clear that there are secrets being kept. As Hal digs deeper, she finds herself in danger and has to draw upon lessons she learned from her mother to give her the strength and wisdom to persevere. Will she solve the mystery in time?

This was a well-crafted novel of suspense. Ruth Ware creates a truly creepy atmosphere and so effectively writes about the cold, wet weather that I momentarily forgot that it’s 90 degrees and sunny where I live. The plot twists were good ones, although I figured them out in advance and I would characterize my mystery solving skills as only average. I think it must be really difficult to write a truly surprising plot twist. I think they work best when you aren’t expecting them and, unfortunately, with a suspense novel you’re always expecting them.

There were a few things that could have been done a little better. I would have liked more backstory about Mrs. Westaway so that I could understand why she structured her will the way she did. And some of the decisions Hal’s mother made didn’t make sense to me. But these weren’t deal breakers.

Overall, a thumbs up for a strong suspense novel.

Have you read “The Death of Mrs. Westaway?” What did you think?

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Death of Mrs. Westaway”, by Ruth Ware

  1. This sounds good, will check it out. I just finished “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Have you read that one? It is fiction but seemed totally feasible to me. Very suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down.

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  2. I couldn’t wait for yet another Ruth Ware mystery, and read it as soon as it was released, and while a good “read”, it left me slightly disappointed. I think you nailed it about needing a bit more background on Mrs. W. Excellent recap; love your blog!

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  3. This one is on my To-Be-Read list. Your review made me move it up! Sounds like a good, atmospheric October kind of read.
    I’m reading a good one now, The Other Side of Everything. Only halfway through but it is a really good one so far.

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