Ruth Ware is quickly becoming crime fiction royalty, with her sharp, twisty tales and unique stories. The Death of Mrs Westaway had been on my to-read list for a while, so when I finally picked it up I began to read it straight away.
Harriet Westaway is living alone in Brighton, working as a tarot card reader. At just nineteen, she is living alone as her mother passed away a few years ago. She is struggling to survive, living a lonely life in poverty, unsure of what the future can possibly hold. When a letter arrives telling her that her grandmother has passed away and left her something in her will, Harriet is shocked. Her grandmother passed away years ago – didn’t she? With huge debts hanging over her, Harriet decides to take a chance and go to find out who Mrs Westaway is and whether is really owed any money.
What follows is one of the most exciting thrillers I have read in a long time. With the atmosphere of a ghost story and the pace of a thriller, it feels like Hitchcock and Agatha Christie for the modern age. I like Harriet the whole way through, she felt real and purposeful, her voice as vivid as a friend. At times she did feel older than nineteen, but I always believed in her as a character and we discovered the truth with her – there was no second guessing this plot ahead of the protagonist!
Each character was cleverly constructed and the location of the old manor house painted vividly in all its eerie glory. Although it had the air of a whodunnit, with the whole family gathered for the reading of the will, this story is far more than the traditional murder mystery. Each character was vividly portrayed rather than a cliched construct for the sake of the plot. There were characters I liked and characters I hated, each with their own perspective and desires.
The plot itself kept up a steady pace. It was perhaps a little slow to begin, but I appreciated the time put into showing who Harriet, or Hal, really was and the life she was living. Once at the funeral, the plot quickly picked up and the lies and secrets began to appear. I didn’t guess the final twist to this story, I was left shocked and surprised and pleased to finally find a mystery that really did keep me guessing until the very end.
I devoured this book in a few days and couldn’t put it down – I needed to know the truth! Yet at the same time, once finished I wished I’d read it more slowly to enjoy the details as they unfolded. It’s one of those books I’ll be recommending for months and I definitely think you should read this one soon, it really is a highly entertaining, yet dark and startling read.