Ruth Ware is back with a haunting tale of family secret, magpies, decrepit old houses, and maybe even murder. The Death of Mrs Westaway is a throwback to an older era of mystery novels, an Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit where the crime isn’t abundantly clear. There’s an inheritance to be claimed, but it won’t be easy for anyone involved.
The story begins with Hal, a 21-year-old Tarot reader working just to pay the rent,and she’s barely doing that. Her mother died in a hit and run accident three years ago and now she’s running from loan sharks who are desperate for her to repay her loan several times over. When a letter comes in the mail telling her that she, Harriet Westaway, is a beneficiary of the inheritance of Mrs. Hester Westaway, she knows a mistake has been made, but she can’t afford to ignore it. She has to go there and get what she can, maybe a couple hundred pounds. But when she gets there, things are not what they seem. Hal’s three new uncles are hiding secrets, from her and from the others, and the houselady definitely isn’t normal. But Hal cannot get out. She’s in too far, and now she needs to find out what really happened to Hester’s daughter, the woman they think is Hal’s mother, and why she’d never heard of Trespassen before the day the letter arrived. What she discovers, through letters and picture albums and Tarot cards, is dark and twisted and some family secrets will not be left to die.
This is pretty much your typical suspense book with an Agatha Christie air, an old house and Tarot cards and all that jazz, but it’s a fascinating read. As we unravel what happened, in letters and the modern day prose, it becomes clear that this book is playing with a lot of conventions and twisting some of them on their head and straight-on attacking some of them. There are orphans and scary houses and weird housekeepers and burned diaries and a lake and all that jazz. And maybe I’ve read so many of these books because I anticipated about half of the major twist early on in the book, but I’m also kind of a fan of that twist, so I have no qualms. I’ve also read other books by Ruth Ware so I know a little more about what to expect from her endings.However, I think you’ll really enjoy this book if you love old mysteries and family secrets and all that jazz.