Book: “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” by Ruth Ware
Publishing Info: Gallery/Scout Press, May 2018
Where Did I Get This Book: I received and ARC from NetGalley
Book Description: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.
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 center of it.
Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Review: I want to extend a thank you to NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book!
I was so excited when I opened up Ruth Ware’s previous book “The Lying Game”, as I had thought up until that point that I had found a new guaranteed-to-read author to keep in mind. I love having authors whose works I know I am going to like and therefore need to get my grubby mitts on ASAP. But when I was done with “The Lying Game” I was left with a slight dissatisfaction. It just hadn’t lived up to “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, nor “The Woman in Cabin 10” (which hadn’t lived up to “In a Dark, Dark Wood” either, though it was still enjoyable). I hoped that my ennui with “The Lying Game” was a fluke, and picked up “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” with apprehension. This was going to make or break the guaranteed-to-read status of Ruth Ware.
In “The Death of Mrs. Westaway”, Ware exchanges the whodunnit murder storyline for a treasure trove of family secrets and scandal, which is a whole other kind of beast when it comes to mystery themes. While the slow decline of the aristocracy and family manor houses has made these stories less and less common, the Westaway Family at the center of the novel harkens back to a time of squabbles over inheritance and land ownership, which I quite enjoyed. I do love a good scandals of the upper class plotline, and Ware makes it feel believable even though the time of “Downton Abbey” has long past by the time we meet Hal and the family she is trying to infiltrate. Hal is the perfect protagonist for this kind of book, as she is a twentysomething who has recently found herself alone in the world and in monetary straits while she tries to run her deceased mother’s tarot card/psychic booth on a boardwalk carnival. While you know that her trying to masquerade as someone she isn’t is morally wrong, Hal is likable enough and sympathetic enough that you have to root for her. Unlike other train wreck protagonists that you see in the genre, Hal’s life is a mess, but she herself doesn’t seem like one, just a victim of circumstance and bad choices made during a time of vulnerability (in this case being the death of her mother). The various members of the Westaway Family are also well developed and understandable in their actions because of the fallout of their terrible mother’s death, and the sudden appearance of someone they believe is the daughter of their long lost sister. I loved seeing the conflict of a few of their members, the resentment of losing part of the inheritance mixed with the longing of connecting to their supposed niece. It makes Hal’s own inner turmoil about deceiving them that much more high stakes, because most of them are legitimately good, if not damaged, people.
The mystery itself was also pretty well done. This book didn’t have as many high stakes thrills as previous novels, but it was solid in it’s footing and the puzzles surrounding the family kept me reading. I was also left questioning many of the twists and turns that Ware threw out there, the clues being given in both Hal’s story and diary entries of someone who lived at the estate years in the past. While I kind of guessed the solution to part of the puzzle early on, there were definitely pieces that I didn’t get. Along with that, I did find myself questioning my guesses, so Ware did keep me on my toes until the final reveals. While there weren’t many moments of intense suspense, it was still what I would consider a page turner. It just wasn’t as focused on blood and gore as it was on intrigue and family scandals. I liked the diary entry angle, because it did give out clues at an even pace, and while it was truthful and reliable in its contents, it was written in a way that still could have been deceptive if you didn’t know what you were looking at. Ware was masterful in making it all come together in the end, which is a skill that not all authors can pull off.
I’m pleased that “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” has solidified Ruth Ware as a must read author for me. It went beyond what I normally expect from her, and shows that the comparisons to Agatha Christie are not just hyperbole. If you want a mystery by Ware that isn’t as intense, this is the book that you should pick up.
Rating 8: Ruth Ware returns to form with this strange and twisty mystery. It’s not as suspenseful as her past books, but it still keeps the reader invested and guessing.
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