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.
There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago.
Hal desperately needs the cash and makes a choice that will change her life for ever. She knows that her skills as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money.
But once Hal embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…
One day, Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway receives a letter informing her that her estranged grandmother has passed away. From the letter, it’s clear that Hal is a likely beneficiary of the deceased’s will. There’s only one problem: this woman is not Hal’s grandmother and it’s fair to say there’s been a grievous error through identical names.
But… Hal needs money and she needs it fast. As a tarot reader, Hal knows how to talk the talk to get people to believe her, so combine that talent with the sheer dumb luck of mistaken identity, Hal is not willing to let the opportunity of inheriting enough money to pay off her debts pass her by.
The Death of Mrs Westaway is about the lengths people will go to, to keep their secrets buried and to get what they want.
Although this wasn’t much of a thriller, it was a very compelling mystery that got my mind racing with theories. I was surprised by how much of a contemporary tone this had with the topic of grief, as the main character, Hal, was dealing with the sudden loss of her mother and thrust head first into the realities of adulthood. And through the plot’s mystery, it dealt with the feeling of what family is and how vastly different life is all due to the financial backing we have.
Hal… she was an alright narrator. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t love her. I felt great amounts of sympathy for her, but she also irritated the life out of me because of how stuttery and meek she was. Honestly, the woman we read trying to scam the Westaways, is not a woman any average Joe would believe in a tarot reading.
This is the kind of book with a plot that is all about teasing the reader: like dangling a sweet just out of reach in front of a sugar loving child. Will that betrayal happen or not? Will they get away with it? What is that person going to do? The Death of Mrs Westaway relies upon the reader feeling that solicitous feeling scandals and dramas brew, particularly family drama with decades of history, for the story to strike any meaning and make the reader want to uncover the Westaway history. It plays on the horror of possibility rather than playing on the horror of any actual confirmed plot event, at least until the last 10% of the book. So if you’re not into slow build ups with very little thrills, then this is probably not your ideal mystery/thriller.
I can see myself rereading this in the future, but I don’t think I’ll be rating it 5 stars due to the feeling of long-winded prose here and there, a lack of definitive answers that are meant to be left to the reader to decide (I’m not a fan of that) and I think there’s a plot hole regarding a photograph… but I can’t be 100% certain without rereading it. It’s most definitely worth a read. I love Ruth Ware’s style of writing.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Published September 2018