Desert Isle Keeper
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the fourth psychological thriller by author Ruth Ware, and while I haven’t read all of her previous works, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have picked up. Her latest offering is compelling and twisty, making it something I’m more than happy to recommend.
Hal’s life is falling apart. Her mother died recently in a tragic accident, and Hal has been struggling ever since. She works as a tarot reader in a seaside town, but her business is foundering, and she has made some very poor financial decisions which have landed her in a great deal of trouble with a local loan shark. Now, she’s on the verge of losing both her shop and her apartment, and she’s praying for a miracle of some sort.
Her miracle arrives in the form of a letter from a solicitor Hal has never heard of. The letter informs her that her grandmother has just passed away, leaving Hal a substantial inheritance. This would normally be fabulous news, but Hal’s grandmother has been dead for years, so Hal is pretty sure the letter was sent to her in error. At first, Hal is determined not to act on the information contained in the missive, but the lure of a large sum of money ends up being too great to resist. So, using the skills she has honed as a tarot reader, she sets out to claim the money.
Soon after arriving at the old mansion belonging to the Westaway family, Hal begins to realize that something is very wrong. It seems that every single member of the family has something to hide, and Hal finds herself beginning to wonder if someone knows more than they’re telling about her connection to them. Suddenly, more than an inheritance might be at stake – Hal’s attempt to lay claim to Mrs. Westaway’s money might just cost her her life.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a tautly atmospheric novel that is perfect to curl up with on a stormy night. If you, like me, are a fan of Phyllis A. Whitney’s writing, this book is definitely for you. It has that same menacing feel I remember so fondly from my high school days, when Ms. Whitney’s novels were a regular part of my reading life. It’s not the same kind of intense creepiness I get from reading a novel about serial killers; instead, it’s more of a slow build-up of impending doom. I knew something bad was going to happen to someone, but I had no idea where the danger would come from or how it would play out.
Hal is a really hard character to like. In essence, she’s a cheat and a con-artist who has no compunction in lying to the Westaways and who seems to feel very little remorse about taking money that clearly is not intended for her. Fortunately, as the story progresses, Hal begins to examine her own actions and make some positive changes in her life. She never becomes completely likable, but she does grow quite a bit over the course of the novel, and character growth is something I appreciate.
The story contains a few references to child abuse that some may find troubling. They aren’t extremely graphic, but I figured they were worth mentioning so potential readers can go into this book with their eyes wide open. I didn’t find them any more disturbing than the usual stuff contained in a psychological suspense novel, but I know people’s comfort level with these sorts of things is different.
There are a lot of psychological thrillers being published these days, but The Death of Mrs. Westaway is one of the best I’ve read this year. It’s complex without being confusing, and the author does a stellar job keeping the reader guessing. I love it when a book forces me to question the motives of the various characters, and Ms. Ware delivers in spades in this regard. Whether you’re already a fan of Ruth Ware’s writing or you’re looking for something new to get lost in, I strongly encourage you to give this one a try.