Sunday, 17 June 2018

Book Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Book: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Author: Ruth Ware

Pages: 400

Read: Kindle edition

Read in: 4 hours

Plot Summary: 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. 

General Thoughts: This is the third Ruth Ware book I've read. In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Lying Game have been reviewed on this blog (click on their names to get to the reviews) and while my sister and I buddy-read The Woman in Cabin 10, we hated it so much that it did not merit a review at all. We each gave it 1-star on Goodreads. So, it was with much trepidation that we, first, bought the Kindle copy of this book and, second, actually started reading it this lovely, rainy Saturday. However, I guess, in this case, fourth time was the charm and this book was SO much better than any of Ruth Ware's previous books! *whew* Anyway, that preamble done, let's get into the detailed review! 

Things I Liked: 
  • Long-time readers of this little blog will know that I love stories about complicated family dynamics and mysterious family secrets and so on! So, it is no wonder that the book's premise had me at hello! In spite of my multiple reservations about the author's previous work, I decided to buy the book and give it a go! And as far as the mysterious family secrets and complicated family dynamics bit goes, the author does a great job of creating an oppressive, unfriendly and cold environment into which poor Hal (as Harriet goes by) enters. The Westaway family has more than enough dark secrets and those secrets themselves are quite interesting and not very easy to figure out! So, good job, Ms. Ware! 
  • I have never liked any of Ruth Ware's characters in her previous books. They've not been likeable or relatable and I, honestly, didn't care if the protagonist lived or died! But, here, again, she does a good job in crafting Hal as a very likeable character and also one whose misfortunes tug at the reader's heartstrings. Hal is a down-on-her-luck 21 year old tarot card reader, who is all alone in the world. Her mum died three years ago and since then she has been struggling to make ends meet. It is during this time that she had taken a GBP 500 loan from a loan shark, which now stood at a staggering GBP 3,800! Poor Hal gets threatened by a henchman of the loan shark and is almost at the end of her tether when she receives a letter informing her of the death of her grandma and an unknown inheritance. So, no wonder she jumps at the opportunity, in spite of being told by her mum that her grandparents have been dead for a while. Hal is not unscrupulous and I liked that she does certain things, pretty much, early on after meeting the family of the deceased Mrs. Westaway that establish her strong moral compass. 
  • There is a nice little mystery about who Hal's mom is. I don't want to elaborate too much on it, but suffice to say, it is quite interesting and nicely done. 
  • The family secret referred to in the book is a little predictable, but not too predictable and it is nicely handled in the book- the reveal is step-by-step and the reader has enough breadcrumbs to make an educated guess but not so many breadcrumbs that the mystery is dead obvious! 
  • The members of the Westaway family and their long-time cook/ nanny Mrs. Warren are all interesting characters. Some of them are likeable, some are not. Some of them have their own secrets and struggles. But all of Mrs. Westaway's kids seem to hate her, which is yet another interesting tidbit about the dead lady and helps us understand her will and Hal's inclusion into it. 
  • In the book, we also get to read the diary entries of Hal's mother. These entries are based in 1994 and through these we get a hazy look at the events at the Westaway home before Hal's birth. It also contains some hints about Hal's father. The diary pages work as a nice set of breadcrumbs and helps the reader connect the dots later in the book. 

Rating: 4/5 
This is an interesting book and I recommend it to anyone who loves murder mysteries and, especially, stories about complicated family dynamics! 

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