Title: The Death of Mrs Westaway
Expected publication: 28 June 2018
"Seven for a secret
Never to be told."
When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.
There's just one problem - Hal's real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger's funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…
Stop Press! Lovers of character-driven, atmospheric thrillers with a spooky setting, listen up! You’d better put May and June on your calendars, because this is when Ruth Ware’s latest book The Death of Mrs Westaway will be released, and it’s a pearler! Ever since reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, Ware has been firmly embedded on my favourite authors list, and I was doing a little happy dance around my house when I received a copy of her new book from Netgalley.
For me, The Death of Mrs Westaway has all the hallmarks of a fantastic read. Ware is a master at characterisations, and has created another charismatic main protagonist and a great cast of supporting characters who immediately drew me into the story. I once followed a thread on a book blogging site, discussing whether people could visualise characters’ faces when reading or whether they remained shadowy featureless shapes. For me, this depends very much on the author’s writing skill, and I am happy to say that Ware falls squarely into that category. It’s in the small details, the casual observations, the little quirks that make her characters come to life, and the book played out almost movie-like in my mind, each fictional person as real to me as flesh-and-blood people I have known for years.
Hal, the mousy bespectacled girl who is constantly being underestimated by those who first meet her played a wonderful lead, and I immediately warmed to her. Left destitute, with loan sharks threatening her after the sudden death of her mother, young Hal has her back against the wall and we feel her desperation as she is looking for a way out of her seemingly hopeless situation. When a letter arrives to tell her that she has been named as an heir to part of the late Mrs Westaway’s estate, it offers a perfect way out – even if it means lying about her true identity. Would I consider doing this in her situation? Would you? Don’t you just love an ethical dilemma in a suspense story? To see what Hal decides to do you will have to read it for yourself ....
Aside from the characters, there is Ware’s hallmark claustrophobic setting that characterises all her novels. From the isolated house in the forest in her debut novel In a Dark Dark Wood, to the luxury yacht in The Women in Cabin 10, to the rustic beach house in The Lying Game – I loved them all! In The Death of Mrs Westaway the setting is a spooky, Gothic English manor house which has seen better days, and which harbours a dark secret. As the Westaways come together under its crumbling roof, the tension is sure to mount, and there is a constantly growing thread of menace and danger that had me eagerly turning the pages for more. I can see why comparisons with Agatha Christie’s writing have been made, because this is a very character driven novel, relying on the interactions between people and the things left unsaid to create almost unbearable suspense. As with her characters, Ware knows how to introduce small, seemingly innocuous elements into her setting that serve to ratchet up the tension, such as the dilapidated boathouse on a weed-choked lake, the mournful cawing of the magpies and the dark staircase to the small attic room Hal is being put up in during her stay at the house. I also loved the unusual element of Hal’s tarot cards to add to the breadcrumb-like trail of clues left for the reader, which made for a very unique feature in this outstanding novel!
Ware has done it again and created a cast of vivid characters coming together in an eerie claustrophobic setting where past secrets are bound to raise their ugly heads and family skeletons are aired in her latest tense psychological thriller.
The Death of Mrs Westaway is sure to be one of my favourite reads of 2018, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to all lovers of the genre!
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.