Review: The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

Synopsis: 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 centre of it.

It seems like such a long time ago since I finished this book. In reality, it’s less than a fortnight but self-isolation has seen me power through several books on my TBR list. Spending so much time indoors has also encouraged me to lose all sense of time and place – does anybody else feel that way?

The Death of Mrs Westaway is the fourth novel I’ve read by Ruth Ware and it has solidified her place among my current favourite authors. Psychological thrillers are one of my go-to genres for fiction books and Ware seems to nail it every single time, offering the perfect mix of suspense and intrigue, without bordering on the completely unfathomable.

Harriet (Hal), the protagonist of Ware’s fourth offering, is a brilliant narrator – she’s flawed and complicated, yet extremely likeable and relatable. There’s such depth to Hal’s character and Ware was successful in providing the perfect balance between offering enough information on Hal’s backstory to make you sympathise with her present-day choices, and being subtle enough to ensure she didn’t give too much away about the plot.

In many ways, The Death of Mrs Westaway is creepy as hell! The isolated setting, the freezing attic bedroom and the hideous housekeeper all came together to create a gothic, spooky setting that I genuinely found quite frightening. But there were some heartwarming moments in the book too, which I wasn’t expecting at all. The unity created by the Westaway family was bizarre given the circumstances, yet very believable and worked well to add a little something extra to the novel, particularly towards the end.

If I was going to offer any criticism, I’d just say that a major part of the plot (sorry I’m being so vague, but I’m trying to review spoiler-free) was really confusing. I got it, eventually, but I had to go back and re-read several chapters to finally understand it. The Death of Mrs Westaway is certainly one of those novels where much of the detail is available when you consider what hasn’t been said, rather than just what has.

I found myself thinking about this book all the time while reading it, wondering what was going to happen next and when I could get back to it. This demonstrates how captivating it was and I love nothing more than when a story makes me feel that way.

This is officially my second favourite Ruth Ware novel now – I thought it was fantastic, but it didn’t quite top The Woman in Cabin 10 for me. I have added Ware’s fifth offering, The Turn of the Key, to my TBR list though and will continue to follow the author’s progress. All in all, I thought it was a successful book – plenty of plot twists and some great characters!

Goodreads rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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