The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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Hal Westaway is having a rough time of it. Three years after her mother passed away in a freak accident, she is barely making ends meet at her job as an occult on the Brighton Pier and she’s being threatened by loan sharks on a daily basis. However, it seems like her luck might be changing when she receives a letter calling her to the Westaway family mansion, Trepassen, to collect an inheritance left behind after her grandmother’s death. The only problem? Hal has never heard of this family before today.

Picking up this book made me realize how much I enjoy more classic thrillers— books that invite you to solve a mystery, look for clues, and guess until the very end. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the most classic of Ware’s books. While I thought some parts of this book were a little lacking, I really enjoyed the different approach. As I fell deep into this story, it was easy to forget that it was taking place in today’s time, as the use of cell phones and laptops fade into the background. Instead, we focus on face-to-face meetings, discovering clues through photographs, and getting one step closer to the truth through storytelling.

The gothic tone comes through the most strongly right away through weather, but hits home when Hal arrives at the old, creepy, creeky mansion in the middle of nowhere called Trepassen. Those who have lived in this house seem to have mostly bad memories of it, and it’s easy to believe their stories when faced with broken lightbulbs, dark hallways, and dusty libraries. Hal’s career, which involves reading tarot cards, also adds to the spooky mood of the whole story. Tarot as a motif was one of my very favorite parts and it lead me to do my own external research on the art Hal is so involved in. I appreciated that tarot did not become a device to move the plot along by magical means, but instead was used as a way for Hal to meditate on the facts she already knows. Tarot as an art rather than a type of magic was a take I wasn’t expecting, yet enjoyed thoroughly.

I did think that Ware ran into some trouble with characters, as their names were so similar and the family ties were pretty confusing. The characters Maggie and Maud seemed to be almost identical in personality and, since they were essentially taking the roles of ghosts in this story, I found it hard to tell their stories apart. I also think Ware gave us too many clues early on in the story. While I was surprised by the ending, I predicted about half of it before I got there. I consider this book one that I enjoyed but won’t personally recommend very often or that will stick in my head for long.

Overall? An entertaining classic thriller with a really fun tarot motif, but ultimately not a favorite.

This book was kindly sent to me by the publisher!

Purchase The Death of Mrs. Westaway here.

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Gallery / Scout Press; 978-1501156212; 384 pp; May 29, 2019. Thriller