This book is like a gothic Agatha Christie, and I loved every minute of it.
It begins when tarot card reader Hal receives a letter about an inheritance she realizes was sent to the wrong person. She decides to claim it anyway to pay off some debts, but when she gets to the house and meets the family, she realizes something’s very wrong. There’s much more behind the reason she received the letter than she’d initially thought, and that there may be things in her past that connect her to that family after all.
I’m a huge Ruth Ware fan — no surprise as I’m also a huge fan of Agatha Christie and contemporary thrillers, and Ware has an uncanny ability to blend both genres. The Death of Mrs Westaway is probably the creepiest, most atmospheric of Ware’s works, and that’s saying a lot when her previous novels involve a remote cabin in the woods and a murder at sea. There’s something about a large estate and a family full of secrets that just lends itself really well to a creepy atmosphere, and Ware does a great job keeping the tension thrumming throughout. There’s such a sense of wrongness about the estate and the Westaway family, and it’s all so deliciously disquieting.
The Death of Mrs Westaway also plays into my love for soapy family dramas. Take family members who barely tolerate each other, entice them with a massive fortune to spend a weekend in a house filled with bad memories, and then tell them a relative they never even knew existed would be taking a chunk of their inheritance. This is a recipe for disaster, and Ware milks the situation for all it’s worth.
We also get flashbacks into the past through diary entries from a character who grew up in the house, and whose identity plays into the first big reveal. It’s easy enough to guess long before Hal does, but knowing this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. If anything, knowing the writer’s identity made me more interested in the diary entries, and more eager to study the text for clues.
The Death of Mrs Westaway is just pure fun to read. It has family drama, a compelling mystery and lots of atmospheric creepiness. I couldn’t put it down. I’ll always have a soft spot for In a Dark, Dark Wood, but The Death of Mrs Westaway may just be taking its place as my favourite Ruth Ware book of all time.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.