It’s far too long since I featured Ruth Ware on Linda’s Book Bag. I was lucky enough to hear Ruth speak at Capital Crime in September 2019 and wrote about that occasion here. Prior to that I featured Ruth’s The Lying Game here and reviewed In a Dark, Dark Wood here. Today, I’m delighted to share my review of Ruth’s The Death of Mrs Westaway which is my book group read for January and was actually my choice!
Published by Penguin imprint Vintage, The Death of Mrs Westaway is available for purchase through the links here.
The Death of Mrs Westaway
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…
My Review of The Death of Mrs Westaway
Hal needs money – fast!
In the interests of complete honesty, I must confess that I was a little unsure initially that I was going to enjoy The Death of Mrs Westaway as much as I had anticipated because it felt slow at the beginning as Hal’s background is established and I wasn’t sure how it was going to evolve. How wrong can a person be? I loved it! That more measured start is actually essential in drawing in the reader and feeding them information that will prove vital to the plot, but perhaps not in ways they realise – though obviously I can’t say more for fear of spoiling the read. If others have those initial misgivings like me I’d urge them to read on. The Death of Mrs Westaway is a captivating story.
There’s a real sense of the Golden Age of crime writing underpinning modern events like loan sharks, that gives The Death of Mrs Westaway a fresh, yet timeless appeal. The book feels eloquently crafted and so carefully plotted, with a tension that increases as the narrative progresses so that I found myself wondering what was happening with Hal when I wasn’t reading about her and frequently couldn’t set the book aside even when I was supposed to be doing something else. I was drawn into the story until I actually dreamt about it, finding myself in sinister corridors with a threatening sensations in my dreams. Echoes of du Maurier’s Mrs Danvers through the character of Mrs Warren, of Agatha Christie in plotting and setting, and of Shakespearean themes of greed, murder, tyranny and guilt, layer The Death of Mrs Westaway with a fascination that I found completely compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly mystical and gothic sensation created by the iterative image of tarot and the magpies too. Ruth Ware knows exactly how to enhance her atmosphere by seeping into her reader’s psyche and drawing on their own superstitions and experiences to make her story all the more creepy and hypnotic.
I really enjoyed Hal’s character. Her tenacity when faced with adversity coupled with her sense of right and justice make her an interesting person to read. I felt the way her full name, Harriet, is condensed to Hal brilliantly represented her core strength because she is more powerful than she looks. However, what I enjoyed most about the characterisation in The Death of Mrs Westaway was the way Ruth Ware used those not actually present to drive the narrative. Both Hal’s mother and Mrs Westaway are dead from the outset and yet they have a presence that lingers and shapes in a fascinating way so that the reader realises how even a past we didn’t know we had might affect us in our present and future. Indeed, The Death of Mrs Westaway is one of those books that offers more, the more the reader engages with it.
The Death of Mrs Westaway was not what I was expecting. From an unsure start I was drawn into a tale of intrigue, lies, twists and manipulation that was hugely entertaining and that I thoroughly enjoyed.
About Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway and The Turn of the Key have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. Her books have been optioned for TV and film and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.