Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
My Rating: ★★★
On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.
Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.
While this book was really well written and I loved the setting, I felt the pacing was a bit too slow and the ending wasn’t a huge shock. I really want more darkness and more suspects. Maybe I was expecting the ending to totally blow me away? Don’t get me wrong, I was really loving this book until I got to about the last quarter.
This slow-burn thriller follows Hal, a young woman who is recovering from the death of her mother. She is having trouble making ends meet, her tarot-reading job isn’t quite pulling in enough cash, and now a shady loan lender wants his money back. Hal feels like her financial prayers are answered when she receives a letter from a will executor stating she’s inherited a small fortune from a dead relative.
But Hal is certain she isn’t related to the dead woman, Mrs. Westaway. In fact, she doesn’t have any family at all. Hal, out of desperation, decides to visit the Westaway estate in hopes she can at least leave with enough cash to pay off her debts.
In usual Ruth Ware fashion, she rounds up our cast of characters under one roof (very Agatha Christie-like) and we have to figure out who is the shadiest one of them all. There are so many secrets each family member holds, and we are left second-guessing a lot. And alternating between the present story we also get to read letters from the past. The author of these letters is unnamed and we are left guessing who it is.
I loved the family dynamic between all the Westaway children. Even the cold and grumpy Mrs. Warren had me loving to hate her. The story overall is very atmospheric; I love anything set in England, and having it take place in the winter is an added bonus. Seriously, this is such the perfect book to read in the fall/winter.
So, why three stars? For one, I was hoping to get more “thriller” vibes in the first half of the book. While I loved the mystery, I felt like the pacing was too slow and things didn’t start to pick up until the last 60’ish pages. I also had a lot of theories but ultimately the most obvious theory (for me) turned out to be correct. I was really hoping for a more unpredictable twist.
But, huge props to Ruth Ware for not giving us more unreliable narrators. I was really rooting for Hal (even though she did a lot of things toward the end that made me question her judgment). I also loved how tarot cards played a huge role in this book and shaped the themes and characters. I really think that if you’re into a slow-burn domestic thriller that feels super atmospheric then this will be the perfect fall read for you. But if you’re looking for something with darker, suspense/thriller vibes, then I would recommend books by Karin Slaughter, Chelsea Cain, and Peter Swanson.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway was read during week 2 of #FridayFrightAThon. Each week in October we are picking up a new thriller! We will be discussing each book using the hashtag #FridayFrightAThon on Twitter and Bookstagram.