Spooky Reads - The Death of Mrs. Westaway
This weekend I read the latest novel from mystery thriller writer Ruth Ware. She’s written The Woman in Cabin 10, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Lying Game. This story, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, was published in May of this year.
Harriet, who goes by Hal, is a young woman coping with the unexpected death of her single Mother. To make ends meet, Hal runs the tarot shop her Mother left behind. Each day she goes onto the pier in Brighton and reads people’s tarots. While she doesn’t believe in tarot, her Mother taught her how to read people and see between the lines in order to give a good reading. But unfortunately the money coming in from this job doesn’t cover the bills.
Awhile back, when Hal was desperate, she borrowed money from a Loan Shark and is now up to her neck in dangerous interest. She’s given one week to pay up or else.
Hal receives a mysterious letter from someone named Mr. Treswick who informs her that her Grandmother, Mrs. Westaway, has passed. Hal is needed at Trespassen House for the reading of the will as Hal is a beneficiary.
The only thing is, as far as Hal knows, her grandparents are already dead and she’s never heard of Trespassen House. But perhaps, if she plays her cards right, she could scam this family into believing she is the right person and could receive a couple of thousand pounds to fix this mess she’s in.
But as she arrives at Trespassen house, a giant decrepit English manor, Hal realizes there may be more truth to this story than she realized. And there’s a lot of buried secrets in this family that she may not want to uncover.
Right off the back, this wasn’t Ruth Ware’s normal novel. But that isn’t a bad thing. There is a mystery to solve here, and the characters are incredibly strong like always, but this isn’t a frantic rush for survival. This story won’t have you reading as fast as possible to figure out whodunnit. What you will want to do is take your time with this story because of the delicious gothic detail. Trespassen House is like a dream home for me. Giant manor, creepy boat house, big fireplaces, cobwebs everywhere, and a maze.
The house itself is such a wonderful character that Ware has created. And as the main characters run around inside of it, you can feel the house breathing down their necks.
Hal is our main protagonist and she’s a damaged individual. But she’s also tough as nails – she’s learned to fend for herself and overcome a lot of trauma. When we meet the Westaway family we learn about Ezra, Abel, Harding, Mitzi and Mrs. Warren. Ezra was my favorite – he was that sort of messy, dramatic, old money kind of guy. I liked that he just flew in and out of every scene smelling of cigarettes and whiskey. Mitzi was adorable – a caring mother and wife and a giant heart. Abel’s a fascinating study of someone who always tries to find the positive in every situation. Harding is the gruff, stressed head of house who spends all his time taking on the worries of the family. And Mrs. Warren is the perfect, creepy, old housekeeper who knows every secret.
Like I said, the story itself isn’t a fast paced one. We spend a lot of time with Hal while she tries to figure out how she’s connected to this family. We jump back and forth between diary entries from the 90’s of a mysterious woman who grew up in the house. And while it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going on, there are still some twists that catch you off guard.
My only complaint is that by the end you’re struggling to remember who’s who and how they’re all connected.
But I enjoyed the story a lot, I loved the imagery of it all, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves old gothic manors and slow burning mysteries.