Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
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.
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret
Never to be told.
If this book, and this creepy house, is full of anything (besides ghosts), it’s secrets. And it was certainly a wild ride as I discovered each and every one, right along with Hal. I didn’t fully know what to expect going into this book, but this wasn’t it. I loved the twists and turns of the plot, and the family dynamics that were added in. Most of all, I loved the writing! I’d read two Ruth Ware books before: The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game. While I loved The Lying Game, I wasn’t crazy about The Woman in Cabin 10, so I was a little wary going into this one. But I had absolutely no reason to be worried. It had the elements I loved about Ware’s writing, with none of the unreliable narrator trope. PLUS it had letters interspersed throughout the story, giving us insight into the family life before Hal was born. I love mixed media reads: it just adds a whole new dimension to the book and the characters. This book was everything I wanted and more.
In this book, we follow Hal, or Harriet Westaway, as she struggles to adjust to life after her mother dies. Hal is a girl down on her luck, backed into a corner by circumstance, and who’s made some choices she probably otherwise wouldn’t have in order to survive. Those choices come back to haunt her, and when it seems there’s no way out, suddenly a letter arrives. This letter tells Hal she’s inherited some money from a long-lost grandmother, and she must come to claim it. While it can’t possibly be true, Hal decides to go make a run for the money anyway. As you can imagine, it all goes downhill from there.
Once there, she meets her supposed uncles: Harding, Ezra, and Abel. While I mostly just found Harding irritating and childish, I was immediately drawn to Ezra, and was constantly side-eying Abel. As the story goes on, I started side-eying ALL of them and trusted no one. I did love watching their family dynamics, both through their interactions with each other and with Hal, as well as through their memories of their mother and their long-lost sister: Hal’s supposed mother. No matter who we met along the way, they all had one thing in common: they were all hiding something.
She had discovered that the most important truths often lay in what people didn’t say, and learned to read the secrets that they hid in plain sight, in their faces, and in their clothes, and in the expressions that flitted across their faces when they thought no one was watching.
Hal is also a Tarot card reader – and this was quite possibly my favorite element of this book. I absolutely loved when Hal would do readings, describing each of the cards and what they mean. I was so intrigued by this world, and found myself googling Tarot just so I could learn more. I honestly wish this had been more central to the plot, but did enjoy how the meanings weaved in and out of the discoveries we made.
We have free will. The answer the arcs give can turn us in our path. All I have to do is understand what they are saying.
My one complaint is that Hal was really indecisive. While I really felt for her, and was pulling for her to succeed, she seemed to bounce back and forth between decisions so many times. Make up your mind, girl! But aside from that, Hal is brave and loyal to her mother, and honestly I have to give her props for going back to that spooky house – wild horses couldn’t have dragged me.
Whatever Hal was, she was not a mouse. And she would be not be anybody’s prey.
If you are looking for a good, spooky, halloween read, look no further. This book has family drama, a mysterious mansion, and a creepy house keeper: the makings of a perfect thriller. It was definitely a page-turner, and I finished each section wanting to continue on.
This book was book 2 of #FridayFrightAThon: a buddy read/readathon we hosted in October 2018! Every Friday, we start a new spooky read. Use the hashtag to follow along on twitter or instagram. In the meantime, check out my amazing cohosts:
Join us for our next read, If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio, which starts on Friday October 19!