Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Summary: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time. -- Gallery/Scout

What rock have I been living under? I have absolutely no excuse, but until this weekend I had never read a novel by Ruth Ware. Shame on me! I picked up her latest book THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, which is definitely getting some positive attention; and I was honestly blown away. I loved this book from her writing style, to her character development, to the twists of the story.

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY tells the story of Hal, a young woman who is struggling to make ends meet after her mother was killed in a hit and run accident. She works as a tarot card reader on a pier in Brighton which hardly pays the bills, so she borrows some money from a questionable character. She ends up getting in over her head and has to pay back all of the money plus interest... or else.

So when she receives a letter in the post telling her that she's supposed to inherit some money from her grandmother, Hal quickly realizes that it's some sort of mistake. But she's very, very good at playing a role and picking up on other's actions (think tarot card reader!), so she thinks it's worth a shot to go to the funeral and play as if she's the legitimate heir. After meeting the family and spending some time at their estate, Hal quickly realizes that something isn't quite right with this family and the inheritance in question. What Hal thought she knew about her family and her past is turned upside down as she struggles to get to the truth of the situation!

I loved THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY! It had just the right blend of mystery, intrigue, and family drama to make it a winner in my books. I loved how the story was told through the eyes of Hal as well as with flashbacks from her mother's journal; and I have to say that just when I thought I had everything figured out, something took place that threw me for a loop! Can I just tell you how much I loved the complexities and twists of this story?

One element that made this book fun was Hal's skills with reading tarot cards. In fact, I almost want to get a how-to book and a set of cards. It was terrific how Ms. Ware tied the cards to the characters and their actions, as well as how Hal interpreted the cards... including her own. There were also some interesting themes that were brought to life through the tarot cards.

Another great aspect of the book was the setting. The Westaway estate was a bit old and dilapidated (and ever so damp and cold!), and I could almost feel the temperature of the rooms while reading the book. Ms. Ware brought this house in all its creepiness to life perfectly. Most of the novel took place under its roof and I just had a feeling that some terrible things happened there. I'm not entirely sure how the author conveyed this, but even though the house was huge, I felt as if it was closing in on Hal!

And finally, the mystery! I loved it. It was such a well written story with quite a few twists and turns. I especially enjoyed how some of my solid beliefs about certain characters were turned upside down by the end of the novel. I honestly had no idea where the book was going to end up, and I loved the surprises as well as the way they were revealed.

Immediately after finishing this novel, I wanted to read Ms. Ware's other three books. I'm not reading all that quickly right now, but expect to see some of her earlier books reviewed here this summer! I rarely make comparisons to other authors, but this novel did have a modern-day Agatha Christie feel to it. (There were even a few references to the queen of suspense!) Maybe it's because so much of the story took place on the Westaway estate with only a few major characters and that there was so much family drama, but there was a certain Christie feel to the story especially in the way the mystery was finally revealed.

I actually love the idea of book clubs reading THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY. The book is as good in the literary fiction genre as it is in the mystery one. I was so excited to find that there is a reading guide with fourteen questions! Some of the topics you might want to explore include family dynamics, motivations, desperation, deception, redemption, and forgiveness.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a Netgalley copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read Ware even though I've heard lots of great stuff about her work. Hopefully I'll get to one of her books soon.