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The Death of Mrs. Westaway

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A “perfectly executed suspense tale very much in the mode of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca” ( The Washington Post ) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Turn of the Key.

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 center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is a “captivating and eerie page-turner” (The Wall Street Journal) from the Agatha Christie of our time.

368 pages, ebook

First published May 29, 2018

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About the author

Ruth Ware

22 books33.5k followers
Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

Find her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ruthwarewriter, on facebook at www.facebook.com/ruthwarewriter or via her website - www.ruthware.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,914 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
November 29, 2018
There was a lock on the door. Two, in fact. They were long, thick bolts, top and bottom.
But they were on the outside.

This book was so creepy. In a great way. I'm really glad I finally broke down and read a Ruth Ware book.

My sister is a huge Ruth Ware fan so I, of course, in true sibling fashion, had to decide I hated her on principal and avoid all her previous books. Okay, I'm joking, but that dirty wench spoiled most of the endings to the others so I have had to bag an arc to be able to read this spoiler-free. And I loved it! Such a delicious, hard-to-put-down mystery.

What's not to love about old dark secrets, even older darker houses, and mysterious family legacies?

In The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Hal reads tarot cards on Brighton pier and struggles daily to pay the bills and find food to keep her going. This has been her life since the death of her mother a few years earlier. So when she receives a letter bequeathing a large inheritance to her, she decides to accept, even though she knows it must be a mistake.

Hal travels down to the English coast and meets her "family". She is taken to the huge, cold and gloomy Trepassen house-- a place that holds a thousand secrets within its walls. It soon becomes clear to Hal that something is not quite right, that she may indeed have a history entwined with the Westaways, and that someone in Trepassen house is determined to keep the past hidden, whatever it costs.

Ware builds up to her reveals so well. She had me on a hook the entire time I was reading, pacing the novel just right, gradually pulling back the curtain (and years) on the mystery. She remembers that the whys of mysteries are so much more important than the whos (because, come on, there's only so many people it can be, right?).

There's just this overwhelming feeling of wrongness that permeates the novel, and it makes for a very compelling read. Though this is not a supernatural story, the author plays with your mind just enough to have you questioning your own sense of reality and logic. I love the ghostly The Woman in Black vibe, the creepy old housekeeper, and the isolated setting.
The cards tell you nothing you don’t already know. It was her mother’s voice, steady in her ear. They have no power, remember that. They can’t reveal any secrets or dictate the future. All they can do is show you what you already know.

I especially love how the tarot aspect plays into everything, showing symbolism in everyday objects such as the four cups on the table. As Hal's mother noted, the cards are not magic or psychic, but they do have a way of pointing you in a certain direction, making you notice things you'd ignored before. It was very effective.

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Profile Image for Emma.
975 reviews975 followers
November 10, 2019
This is one of those books that relies on conversations not had, coincidences, misunderstandings or misexplainations, and a serious dose of people seemingly deliberately taking the least likely option necessitated by the evidence. If, while reading, I have to whisper 'are you serious?' to myself repeatedly as I follow the main character's journey, it is not a good thing. The author seems to have thought out a story then said to herself, how can I make this needlessly messy so it looks cleverer? Whole sections are entirely unnecessary and the book doesn't know whether it's trying to be gothic horror, an Agatha Christie style whodunnit, or psychological thriller, ensuring that it does none of them well.

Still, it seems to be only me who thinks this way so *shrugs shoulders and walks away*....

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,793 followers
May 17, 2023
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a twisted tale of long-buried family secrets, set against the backdrop of a decrepit estate property, where the coldness gets under your skin.

It's the epitome of dreary gothic vibes!

I went into this hoping for solid gothic atmosphere. I mean, look at that cover.

I wanted to be pulled under by the weight of it and the story definitely did not disappoint in that regard.

Our main character, Harriet 'Hal' Westaway, is a young woman down on her luck since the unfortunate hit-and-run death of her beloved mother.

One day, when she is at her lowest, a letter arrives announcing that her Grandmother, Hester Westaway, has passed and Hal is a named as a Beneficiary in her will.

Hal's presence is requested at the Solicitor's Office during the reading of said will.

Knowing it must be a mistake, her Grandparents died years ago, she decides nonetheless to go pretend to be the Harriet Westaway named in the letter, because, what could go wrong?

At most she is expecting a small financial payout that will allow her to pay off some debt and perhaps live a little more comfortably.

Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what would take place once she entered into this dangerous game.

The family she meets upon traveling to the Westaway estate, Trepassen House, is hella eccentric and it was a ton of fun watching the truth unfold.

Again, to me the setting and atmosphere of this were fantastic.

I could picture the cold, the snow, the eerie lake, the attic room with the bars on the windows; the estate was brought to life within the pages.

I live for that in a story. At times, I felt I knew the answer to the mystery and I was correct on parts of it, but it was so twisted it was hard to tell until the final reveal whether I was on the right track or not. Truly a lot of fun to read.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes gothic vibes weaved into their Mystery-Thrillers.

My only slight criticism was that the beginning was a little slow.

I had this same feeling while reading, The Woman in Cabin 10, but luckily, for me, the introductory portion of this story didn't drag quite as much as that one.

In the end, I am so happy that I picked this one up and I will definitely continue reading Ware's books in future.

If this one is any sign, it's that her works are getting stronger and stronger!

Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
September 28, 2022
"Centered around slow building suspense and tension you could cut with a knife, gothic thriller THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is Ms. Ware's most ambitious and entertaining novel to date."

All hail Queen Ruth Ware! It's no secret that lady authors have been taking over the psychological thriller scene in the past decade (GiRl PoWeR), but there are a handful that seem to come to the forefront when planning out what we want to read over the summer months. Ms. Ware has been a highly coveted name in recent years and for good reason; whether you have read her books from the beginning or are just jumping into her scene, you'll note that she writes a gripping novel with memorable characters and breathtaking atmosphere. While all of her novels would be shelved clearly under the psych thriller persona, this one shined more brightly than the rest, at least in my opinion, due to it's departure into the gothic suspense territory.

I'm a huge fan of stories where the atmosphere is as formidable a character as the people who are making the action happen. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway was the perfect example of such a tale, and the oppressive setting ramps up the unsettled feeling in the reader from the very first page. I almost felt that this book gave off some serious Agatha Christie vibes, but with a modern flair. The slow burning mystery portion of the novel was fantastic; it's not so much about the "who" but the "why" and the "how" in this case. The unraveling of what's really going on had a very traditionalist feel to it, and I wholly embraced the slight changes in the story that brought us to a climax that was both intense and gripping.

Do you like playing detective, perhaps finding clues along the journey of your reading experience? Then you'll most certainly LOVE The Death Of Mrs. Westaway. The devil is in the details, and that phrase couldn't ring more true than it does in this particular story. I had such a blast trying to solve the mystery in all it's parts and found, while a slow burn through and through, I couldn't put it down due to the story's compulsive nature. Dark, unsettling, and full of unexpected twists, Ms. Ware has created one of the "it" stories of 2018. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.9k followers
February 10, 2022
The premise of The Death of Mrs. Westaway is interesting enough. Hal receives a letter from a lawyer with the wonderful news that her grandmother left her an inheritance. Except, she's certain the lawyer sent the letter to the wrong person. But she goes anyways and hopes to defraud the family out of some money she desperately needs. Yep, I can be on board with that.

But immediately, I can tell I'm not a fan of the way Hal's character is written. She comes across as confused, slow-witted, and completely unable to speak clearly. Her conversations are full of hemming and hawing, stammering, and waffling. For example, here is a conversation from her side:
“I—you’re welcome,” she managed at last, and took a hesitant step forwards into the room.
“I, well, yes,” Hal said.
“Although I didn’t know, I mean, I didn’t bring—”
“I—no—” she managed faintly.
But, Unc—” She stumbled over the word, unable to make herself articulate it, and began again: “Look, there’s something I must—”
It was so tedious to read, I kept shouting at her in my head to just spit it out already.

She's also jumpy and paranoid, looking at everyone suspiciously even when they've just said some innocuous words.
Why had he said that? It was so uncomfortably close to her own speculations that she had not been able to find a reply—and had only gaped, and then left the room hurriedly, hiding her shock. Did he know something? Had he and [other character] been talking? Hal . . . found herself wondering about how much [the two characters] really knew.
All this, over a completely common saying. My eyes rolled so hard.

I understand that there should be a dark and foreboding feeling throughout, but it seems to be contrived from Hal's paranoia rather than from any actual atmosphere in the house. She also constantly forgets that she's pretending to be someone else and would say things from her real life that she shouldn't, and then feel stricken and berate herself when she does.

In fact, reading this, it struck me that it's exactly same way Ruth Ware wrote her main character Lo in The Woman in Cabin 10. It's beyond frustrating to read such weak and sniveling female characters when they don't have to be. In both cases, they could've been strong and quick-witted without taking anything away from the story, and it would've been better for it.

As for the mystery itself, it was enjoyable enough, though it's predicated on the outlandish notion that no one would figure out there are two people with the same name, even when there are pictures of these people.

I always see a lot of potential in Ruth Ware's premises, but her execution and in particular, her female characters, fall short. I hope she moves away from writing such silly idiots and instead chooses to write strong, kickass females. I'll be waiting.

See also, my thoughts on:
The Woman in Cabin 10

Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
793 reviews12.4k followers
May 11, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a cleverly crafted atmospheric mystery fueled by deceit. Since I was not a fan of The Lying Game, I was hesitant to read this, but I am so glad I did!

Struggling tarot card reader, Hal, aka Harriet Westaway, finds herself in a moral quandary when she receives a letter naming her as a beneficiary in her grandmother’s will. She believes a mistake has been made as her grandparents died long before she was born. Even though she knows that what she is doing is wrong, she is so desperate for money that she decides to travel to the funeral and play the role of the rightful heir.

Hal travels to eerie Trepassen House, her “late grandmother’s” crumbling estate. She thinks that she is only going to inherit some money, but she soon learns that she has been left much more. At the estate, she meets her “uncles” and uses her keen observation skills to learn more about the creepy family that inhabited Trepassen. When Hal realizes that she has a legit family connection to these Westaways, she begins to dig for more information which leads her into grave danger.

The mystery surrounding Hal’s past kept me intrigued, but it was really Hal’s character that kept me turning pages. Her character is what I loved most about this book. Hal has spent most of her life observing vs. being the center of attention, which has enabled her to master reading people. She can use this skill to deceive, but she has a generous nature. At the same time, she is also fighting to survive and must take what she can. She is often referred to be as being mousy or weak, but her character exemplifies the notion that those who observe are more powerful than those who need to be the center of attention.

Trepassen House also plays a large role. The thickly woven atmosphere surrounding the house transported me. Even though the events take place in the current moment, I felt like I had gone back in time while reading this as it is reminiscent of classic mysteries.The tarot card readings and the constant presence of magpies also contributed to this feeling.

This is not a book focused on fast-paced action, but rather on slowly unveiling the nuances surrounding the mystery. Subtle clues are planted throughout, but all does not come together until the end. This is a mystery with many layers; I found it to be intriguing, intelligent, and entertaining. I was satisfied with how things played out. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is one of my favorite reads of 2018! I recommend for those who enjoy slow-burn classic mysteries.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,370 followers
June 9, 2018

So, here's the thing. You can't really compare Ruth Ware to any contemporary writers. The pure "old-fashioned-ness" of her writing style is so refreshing that it comes across as modern. Weird, huh? You gotta go way back to find Ware's influences. Yep, that's Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie and Patricia Highsmith.

These fantastic female authors constructed some of the best psychological suspense novels ever written, but they aren't quickly devoured like a lot of this genre's current output. Fine literature like fine wine requires some savoring time.

Sniff, sip and swish this one around your mouth a few times. What's the hurry? Just sit back with your glass, soak up the formidable atmosphere, and enjoy the leisurely experience.

This is by far the best of Ware's novels. THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is the book I have been waiting for Ware to create!! It is an immediate classic and the story of mistaken identity is an absolute perfect fit to Ware's charming, gothic style.

Loved the book, but I did not enjoy the audiobook version. Imogen Church is so wonderful when she is straight reading the book. However, there are numerous characters in this one and the overacted, squealing voices she portrays are just cringe inducing. Also, Ware uses the old diary device prominently in this story and I was confused so many times while listening (is this now? or reading from the diary again?). Ugh, I hate that I can't hear italics!😂😂 I went with Kindle in the end and was so glad I switched.

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is not in the least “action packed”, but it is thoughtfully creepy and has so many twists in store for you. Wait for a thunderstorm. Break out the Courvoisier. Light some candles and crack open this beautiful, haunting and dark novel...just don't be in a rush! It's meant to be enjoyed.
Profile Image for Nicole.
443 reviews13.4k followers
April 4, 2022
Najlepsza ze wszystkich Ware’owych książek. Zagadka trochę nie istnieje i chyba właśnie dlatego mi się podobała. Więcej w niej obyczajowości niż mroku i niepokoju.
Z jednej strony podoba mi się nawiązanie do „Rebeki” Du Maurier, ale z drugiej strony uważam je za zbyt mocno inspirowane.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,602 reviews24.8k followers
April 30, 2018
Ruth Ware writes an eerie, atmospheric and dark twisted murder mystery in the style of the golden age of crime classics with elements of the gothic. 21 year old Harriet 'Hal' Westaway lost her mother in a hit and run car accident, and took up the mantle of becoming a tarot reader at the Brighton Pier. Alone in the world, she is in dire financial straits, owing money to unscrupulous loan sharks, and facing a bleak and unpromising future. Out of the blue, she receives a letter that tells her of an inheritance left to her by grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway, which she knows is an error, as both of her grandparents have been dead for a while. Her predicament and circumstances drive her to fraudulently pursue the inheritance, as she attends the funeral and travels to Cornwall to the huge and dilapidated Trepassen House, surrounded ominously by magpies. It doesn't take her long to become aware that something is terribly wrong. This is a story of a dysfunctional family, sibling conflicts and rivalry, intrigue, legacies and buried secrets from the past.

Placed in the attic room, Hal faces hostility from all quarters, apart from Ezra. The elderly, menacing and strange Mrs Warren, the housekeeper appears to have own secrets as well as knowing secrets of others. Hal embarks on a search for the truth aided by her trusty tarot cards, as she wonders what her mother's involvement with the family is. As the past threatens to reveal itself, Hal has to draw on her inner resources as danger swirls around her. Hal is a flawed character, who you can forgive her deceptions, given the precarious nature of her finances. She is brave and courageous in the face of the dark Trepassen House and all the secrets held within its walls. Ware gives us a well plotted tale with rich evocative descriptions. This is a creepy, absorbing and entertaining read which I thoroughly enjoyed with its echoes of Rebecca, Agatha Christie and more. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,767 followers
July 1, 2019

After “The Lying Game” which was a little disappointing to me, I was thoroughly thrilled and engrossed in this new book. Ms. Ware has again written a twisty, dark, atmospheric thriller, this time throwing family, inheritance and sibling rivalry into the brew.

Hal Westaway is still reeling from the death of her mother three months previously. She had to forgo her plans to attend college in order to take up her mother’s tarot reading kiosk on the pier in order to pay the bills. Still she fell short and she make an enormous mistake, borrowing money from someone who was beginning to put pressure on her to pay back the loan with lots of interest and even more threats, bodily threats!

While dealing with all of this and what her next step will be she gets a letter that she is heir to a substantial inheritance from her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway. Hal never knew that she had a grandmother and really thinks that there is a mix up but as she is pinned against the wall with the threat from her loan shark, she makes the decision to go to the funeral and see what the inheritance is all about. She is hoping for a few thousand pounds to help her get cleared of debt and start fresh.

Once at Trepassen house, a falling down, once gorgeous estate, she discoveres that her inheritance is much more than just some money and her “uncles” are none too happy about it, with the exception of Ezra who seems to take her under his wing. The house lends a lot of creepiness to the story, including the terrible attic room which Hal is now sleeping in, with it’s bolts on the outside of the door and it’s message scratched into the window.

Most of the family, however, embraces her as the daughter of their long lost sister and seem ready to accept her into the fold. Once the will is read, however, Hal is not so sure she wants any part of this, thinking she has perhaps dug herself into a really dark hole. Then she decides she will “take this step by step...with the slow, measured pace of a reading. She had to turn each card as it came, consider it, find it’s place in the story . . . . . only the next card was not a card at all, it was a photograph. the photograph . . . .”

There are lots of characters quite well developed including the cranky, constantly lurking, Mrs. Warren, who has been the housekeeper since the uncles were children. She seems to know all of the secrets but seems to be biding her time, does she have a secret of her own?

Mystery/thriller fans are going to love this new book, I did! The only thing that brought it down to a 4 was the fact that I figured out who the “bad guy” was and most of the mystery long before it was revealed. Still the ending is a great one and I loved every minute of this novel.

Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for an ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Mackenzie - PhDiva Books.
418 reviews14.4k followers
June 14, 2018
This book had me completely hooked from page one!

I have to give this 5 glowing stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for Ruth Ware—who if I’m being honest never disappoints me! This book was positively haunting!!! It was spooky yet meaningful, with lovely prose and compelling plot twists. I cannot recommend it enough!

I finished this book last night. It was one of those books that I stayed up late on a work night to finish, because I was so invested in the story. Hal’s dilemma had me completely immersed in the book. I think most readers will find themselves wondering what they would do if they were in Hal’s position! One thing that Ruth Ware does so well in this book (and in her previous work) is to write about characters that are cut off from society in some way. Sometimes this is done through a setting or an experience, and other times it is done through their social predicament. Hal fell into the latter category, with a dash of the first.

What I love about the way Ruth Ware isolates characters is how it makes you forget the noise of the rest of the world. It’s easy to put yourself in their shoes, because she writes in a way that their problem is so isolated, that it shines right off of the page. Hal’s predicament felt like it became my predicament! Hal’s strength, worries, and ideas felt like my own. I was able to fully empathize with her, and root for her along the way.

The promenade was empty, and the woman had disappeared into the darkness as if made from rain herself.

Hal is alone in the world. Imagine being a young woman, raised by a single mother and with no other family, and then your mother passes away in a horrible accident. Hal has no money, no family, and no friends. All she has left from her mother is her Tarot Booth on the Promenade—named Madame Margarida, after her mother—and the strength to survive instilled in her since childhood. But what Hal also has is a debt that is hard to repay. Surviving comes at a cost, and Hal has run out of options. And then one day, a letter arrives…

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your own lies.

The letter informs Hal that she is set to receive some inheritance from the late Mrs. Westaway, her grandmother. The letter is addressed to Hal by name, and yet Hal knows it cannot be true. You see, Hal knows her grandparents all died long ago on her mother’s side, and the letter references Mrs. Westaway being her maternal grandmother. Still, with debt piling up higher and no chance to repay it, Hal wonders if her career of reading others and telling them what they need to hear might be just the thing to help her play the game long enough to earn a bit of inheritance.

As Hal begins her journey to Trespassen House, she finds herself in over her head. It’s one thing to imagine taking a bit of money from those with plenty, but it’s another to place yourself in the center of someone else’s grief. The other Westaways are real people. And yet, there are many secrets in the home. Hal finds herself wondering if she isn’t the only person hiding something. And what will be the cost if those secrets come out?

I can feel it—my secret—burning me up from the inside.

I have to gush for a moment about the settings in this book. Ruth Ware uses such descriptive language, and this book takes place in some truly fantastic settings. From the spooky, abandoned promenade, to the bare apartment, to the dark mansion—I fell in love with the locations described in this book! I could imagine the settings so vivdly, as though I was there myself. I also loved the opening chapters on Hal’s work in the Tarot booth, and the people and settings she interacts with. I won’t spoil them, but they jumped off of the page for me.

The duality in Hal was also a high point for me. Hal is physically meek, but she has an inner strength. The way Hal has learned to play weaker than she is, and then her shows of surprising resilience and bravery were so wonderful. Hal is an easy character to admire and to root for. Hal is someone who has been cast aside in every way, but she has never allowed it to diminish her. Hal is caring but self-preserving. Hal is honest but deceptive. Hal is calculating but impulsive.

Many readers will enjoy this book, and I recommend it highly.

I am so grateful to NetGalley, to Ruth Ware, and to Gallery/Scout Press for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

See my review (and more!) here: http://novelbutnice.blogspot.com/2018...
Profile Image for Christina Loeffler.
135 reviews17.3k followers
August 10, 2018
One for sorrow. Two for Joy. Three [stars] for Ruth Ware's The Death of Mrs. Westaway!!!

Harriet (Hal) Westaway grew up with a loving mother in a tiny flat, until every child's worst nightmare comes to fruition. In one fateful moment, Hal loses her mother and the only security and family she has ever known. Having spent the last few years adjusting to such a life altering change, she has settled into living day-to-day working as a tarot card reader on a pier. Hal is running low on cash, she's got loan sharks hunting her down like Jaws on Amity Island.

Out of nowhere, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her an inheritance from a wealthy woman she is told is her grandmother. Hal knows an entirely different story of her upbringing, her grandparents and her entire life - she knows this letter was not meant for her. Despite this, her desperation leads her to attending the funeral, attempting to con this family into believing she is who they say she is. From here, things slowly descend into mayhem.

You can’t influence fate, or change what’s out of your control. But you can choose what you yourself do with the cards you’re dealt.

Hal was by far my favorite part of this story. She was strong-willed, smart, and a genuinely likable character. Mystery / thriller novels fall short for me a bit when they rely solely on interesting over likable characters and I appreciate that Ware didn't fall into the unreliable narrator trope here. Ware did an exceptional job of showing how things snowballed with Hal, and despite making a semi-shifty choice in trying to defraud this family, you could empathize and understand her plight.

However, past Hal, none of the characters held much depth for me. The banter between the Westaway family fell flat and I don't feel like there was a lot of development into who they were as people and what had brought them to this point and their animosity towards the situation. This read less like a mystery and more like a family drama but there wasn't enough back story to understand the intricacies at play. We are given Hal's sole POV with a few diary entries from before she was born thrown in. These diary entries are really the only look into the past we get - aside from a few conversations between family members. I would've loved to have seen just a bit more to fully develop that plot line.

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.

In the end, this was a disappointment for me because I felt like there was so much promise here and I was a bit let down. The beginning draws the reader right in with intrigue and mystery but this quickly plateaus for what felt like a large portion of the book. Things don't really pick back up until the last 50 or so pages and then I ran into some implausibility issues that suffered due to a lack of development into the character. That being said, the final few twists were a complete knock-out I did not see coming from a mile away!

I completed this as a Traveling Friends read and I can definitely see why this book appeals to so many, it just wasn't my particular brand of story. Anyone interested in slow burn mysteries, family sagas and atmospheric, gothic vibes would likely enjoy this story. Ware clearly has her writing chops well honed, despite this one falling a bit short for me.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,169 reviews98.2k followers
October 18, 2018

“Seven for a secret, never to be told.”

This was my first Ruth Ware book, but sadly it wasn’t a hit with me. But looking at my friend’s reviews, I do think I might be in the minority with my feelings. I will say that the atmosphere was eerie and perfect. I will also say that the writing and prose was beautiful. But I’m not someone who reads a lot of thrillers or mysteries, but even I could see all the reveals in this one coming a mile away.

“One for Joy. One for love. One for the future.”

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a story of a girl named Hal who has been grieving the loss of her mother for the past three years. She has had to take up the mantle of her mother’s psychic readings and tarot spreads for the community, making ends meet, and barely being able to hide from the loan sharks who she received money from when she was desperate. But she thinks her luck could change the day that she receives a letter, letting her know about the death of a woman she has never known and an inheritance that could not only solve her money problems, but change her life forever.

Hal feels like she is good enough at reading people, and telling them what they want to hear, that she might actually stand a chance at convincing them that she is a long lost relative, deserving of a fortune. So, Hal uses the very last of her money to attend the funeral of this mysterious woman she has never known, and travels to the estate, Trepassen. But she soon realizes that her mother has visited this place before, and Hal desperately tries to find out what went on over two decades ago that eventually led to her mother not only fleeing, but to never mention any of her past to Hal.

“Never believe your own lies…”

We also are able to see actual glimpses of the past, and events that happened at Trepassen that help piece together everything a bit more. And Ruth Ware is able to add some really amazing, and really creepy, parallels that make you feel really unsettled while reading. Again, the atmosphere of this book is really well done, and I couldn’t help feeling claustrophobic in that attic myself.

This all sounds super good right? Possibly haunted house? Unsolved murders? Family mysteries? Tarot readings? But that’s about where the coolness ends; with the premise. Hal leads the reader to believe she is so very perceptive, but she literally ignores every single thing that would help her unravel this mystery. And not to get into spoiler territory, but you couldn’t have paid me enough to stay in that attic! Especially after the light, the window, the attempted murder. Like, Hal just ended up being another, typical, stupid character in another typical, stupid murder mystery. And I’m extra let down because I felt like this had so much potential.

And this story wraps up with so many loose ends! What happened to the loan sharks? What happened with the will? What happened with the rest of the family? What were her future plans? Why would a certain somebody help her when they had no real motive? I don’t know friends, but this was just a big letdown for me.

Overall, this was just an okay read for me. I didn’t dislike it, but I disliked more things about it than I liked. But again, I am totally in the minority with my feelings based on the Goodreads reviews I’ve been seeing. Another thing I’ll say is that this reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel, another author I’ve never really enjoyed. So, if you do – then I’d probably really recommend this one to you, too!

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Content and trigger warnings for harassment, anxiety, loss of a loved one, parental abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, captivity, and murder.

Buddy read for #FridayFrightAThon which I co-hosted with Amy @ A Court of Crowns and QuillsJen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻
Profile Image for Julie .
4,027 reviews58.9k followers
July 20, 2018
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is a Gallery Scout publication.

When Harriet- aka- Hal, receives a mysterious letter informing her that she’s been named in her grandmothers will, and stands to receive a substantial sum of money, she knows immediately a mistake has been made. But, her Tarot Card Booth is not getting the bills paid and her creditors are breathing down her neck, some of which have become threatening. Facing a moral dilemma, with her back against a wall, Hal decides to take a chance and test the water by attending the funeral of her ‘grandmother’ – Mrs. Westaway.

Once she’s made her fateful choice, her life as she knows it will never be the same again- if she survives…

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen. I’ve really enjoyed Ware’s previous novels and I see that this one has been well received for the most part. But, for me this one was a bit flat. It took me an age to get into the story, and the tried and true attempts to build suspense, were too obvious to be effective.

By all accounts, this book should have been right up my alley. The old house, the creepy housekeeper, the gathering of the suspects, and the moral issues are all elements I love in a good mystery/suspense novel. But, the pacing was just too slow, the characters were uninteresting, and the dialogue was a bit dull. I can’t really explain why this book didn’t resonate with me, but I just couldn’t get into it. The Magpie references seem to be a popular theme in books right now, but this time it didn’t impress me, and I mainly found it distracting. I guessed major parts of the mystery in advance, so the only thing propelling me forward was seeing how Hal discovered the truth and how it would come to an end.

After giving it a few days, I think maybe it was more of a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ situation. I was excited about the book, and the plot was original, but, it just didn’t grab me. It was okay, and I see why most of my GR friends loved this one. I’m disappointed that I can’t seem to muster that level of enthusiasm for the book, but believe me, it wasn’t from a lack of trying.
3 stars
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.5k followers
June 28, 2020
this is going to be a short review because, while i enjoyed the story, i honestly have nothing substantial to say about it.

the writing is easy to read (although the pacing is a little slow), the characters are decent and relatable, and the plot is intriguing (albeit predictable). its quite an atmospheric story - so if you enjoy gothic mysteries, this will be enjoyable for you!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for JanB .
1,144 reviews2,511 followers
August 17, 2018
4.5 stars, rounded up. Read with the Traveling Friends group, this made for a fun discussion as we tried to piece together the clues and solve the mystery.

And what a twisty, fantastic story it was! An old crumbling estate, a malevolent housekeeper, a dysfunctional family, long-held family secrets, missing people…. all elements that I love in a tale that oozes a menacing gothic atmosphere.

The story opens with 21-year-old Hal, who was left all alone in the world 3 years ago after her mother’s death. She was forced to set aside her plans of college and took over her mother’s job as a tarot card reader. Hal has difficulty making ends meet and has fallen victim to a loan shark, leaving her desperate. Her fortunes seem to take a turn for the better when a mysterious letter arrives. Hal has been named as a beneficiary in her grandmother's will.

Too bad Mrs. Westaway isn’t her grandmother, but from her tarot card reading and dealings with the public, Hal knows how to read people and situations and is confident she can pull off the deception. What’s the harm in playing along and walking away with just a little money to help her through this rough patch? Hal hops on a train to attend the reading of the will and ends up staying with the Westaway family. From here, the tension and suspense made this an addictive read that I had difficulty putting down.

I loved how the author dropped clues like bread crumbs throughout the novel, but it wasn’t until the end that the puzzle pieces clicked into place. I thought I had it figured out but turned out to be only partially right. I was pleasantly surprised - well done Ms. Ware!

This book hooked me from page one right through to the end. Highly recommended for fans of an old-fashioned mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,051 reviews49.1k followers
October 31, 2021
writing was great, but the ending left me unsatisfied sort of like The Turn of the Key…. i’ll probably pick up more from Ruth Ware in the future but i haven’t found my perfect thriller from her yet.
April 11, 2021
Never believe your own lies. (c)
“It seems . . . well, it seems as if Mrs. Westaway did know what she was doing when she drafted that will.” (c)
Well, she most definitely did. Some very convoluted bloodlines and twists and fate doing a lot more than could have been expected. A lovely novel. Mind it, it didn't really know what it wanted to be all along, it felt like a cross-genre experiment but the writing was fluid and engaging and rather seamless, so, I think this was a successful experiment.

Q: As I sit here in the drawing room, writing this, I can feel it—my secret—burning me up from the inside with a joy so fierce that I think it must sometimes be visible through my skin. (c)
I will never feel sad again, in spite of everything, in spite of the storm that I know is coming. (c)
Hal had the promenade to herself, the flashing lights of the pier the only sign of life, apart from the gulls wheeling and crying over the dark restless waters of the channel. (c)
Sorry to have missed you. We would like to discuss you’re financal situation. We will call again. …
Hal was used to reading between the lines, deciphering the importance of what people didn’t say, as much as what they did. It was her job, in a way. But the unspoken words here required no decoding at all.
They said, We know where you work.
We know where you live.
And we will come back. (c)
The woman hesitated, and then pointed at the first card in the deck, to the far left of the spread. It was one people rarely chose—most people picked towards the middle in a fairly even spread, choosing the cards closest to them, while a very few, the most suggestible types, picked up on the implicit instruction in final and chose a card towards the right of the spread, at the bottom of the original pack. (c)
She had seen her mother in the World because her mother had been her world. (с)
What kind of person needed to stop their maids from escaping? (c)
She would shape her own life. She would change her own fortune. She would make her own luck. (c)
And I thought—This is it. This is what I have been waiting all my life to feel, this is what those girls at school used to talk about, this is what the songs mean, and the poems were written for. This is it. He is it.
But the sun has gone now, and it’s winter, and I feel very cold. And I am no longer sure if I was right. (с)
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.2k followers
June 24, 2018
2.5 stars! Ruth Ware in my opinion has the absolute best sinister, gothic, and enticing covers ever! They have always grabbed my attention and gave me that feeling that I just HAD to read the book. It is just too bad that my excitement didn’t follow through to the end of this story though.

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by RUTH WARE is a slow-building, dark, atmospheric, and gothic mystery that had me somewhat engaged, entertained, and interested enough throughout this book to keep me turning those pages but I was never truly invested in this story though.

When reading a thriller &/or suspense novel I like to be able to work out the why and how and be pleasantly surprised by the little pieces of puzzles that were left along the way that I either missed or didn’t think were important to the twists or reveals. I thought some pieces of that puzzle were left out here and in some instances didn’t match-up so therefore this novel just didn’t work for me.

I also had a little problem with keeping all the characters straight as they all just seemed to roll up into one and it was really hard to differentiate between who was who, which I found rather distracting.

I will say though that I absolutely loved the setting of creepy Trespassen House and the atmosphere of this novel though! I also thoroughly enjoyed Hal and her tarot card readings. I thought the explanations and the meanings behind the cards were quite thought-provoking and had me really interested. However, unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to make this story really work for me. Even though I feel like I wasn’t quite the right reader for this one, I still recommend giving it a try!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Ruth Ware for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book in exchange for a review!

Review written and posted on our themed book blog Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading.

Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
September 6, 2018
5 stars! The chilling and eerie atmosphere in this novel was like a character of its own!

It didn’t take long for me to feel completely immersed in this haunting tale. The damp and dark weather. The old, crumbling mansion. The family full of lies and long hidden secrets. This is my kind of book! I have read every one of Ruth Ware’s novels and this is by far, my favourite!

This book revolves around twenty-one year old Harriet Westaway “Hal”, who took over her mother’s tarot card reading business after she passed away three years ago. Years of being alone and struggling to pay the bills have left Hal frustrated and desperate. One day, she receives a mysterious letter advising that she has been left a substantial inheritance from Mrs. Westaway, a grandmother she has never heard of. Hal travels to the Trepassen House estate where she meets the family of Mrs. Westaway.

The writing was perfection! I was glued to the pages from start to finish! Ruth Ware kept the tension, mystery and suspense building as each page turned, all the while keeping the dark and unnerving atmosphere brooding. Each character brought forth a new aura of intrigue and secrecy.

I read this along with the Traveling Friends which was a pleasure! To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at:


A big thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Ruth Ware for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

The Death Of Mrs. Westaway is AVAILABLE NOW!!!
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews509 followers
June 17, 2019
I love Ruth Ware's books, and I found this one to be her best yet. It sees Hal, a young tarot card reader, summoned to the country as her grandmother had died. The only thing is Hal's grandparents had died many years before. However, as she is in debt and wondering where her next months rent money is coming from, she goes, with the idea of swindling the family. Yet as she gets to know the family she feels guilt ridden, and even though something seems off about the family, she can't pinpoint what it is. What are the families secrets? And who is hiding what? Several scenarios went through my head as I was racing through the book, and the final chapters were exceptional. Ruth Ware has crafted a superb thriller with this, what has to be the best book I have read so far this year. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
532 reviews58.5k followers
May 7, 2018
(3.5) The gothic ambience in the Trespassen house was perfect for all the family secrets.

You'll spend the whole book trying to figure if/how the main character is related to everyone and who's lying!

A great read!

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dennis.
774 reviews1,471 followers
April 3, 2018
First and foremost, I'm happy to say that RUTH WARE IS BACK! I've been a fan of Ruth Ware since Day 1. In a Dark, Dark Wood was such a good debut light-mystery novel and The Woman in Cabin 10 was one of my favorite mystery novels of all time. After my disappointment with The Lying Game, I still was hopeful for The Death of Mrs. Westaway . Ruth Ware went back to her roots with The Death of Mrs. Westaway and created a robust, multifaceted, and fascinating story. Seriously guys, I read this 360+ page book in one sitting!

Harriet (Hal) Westaway is a young twenty-something year old tarot card reader in Brighton, England. She is struggling to pay the bills; barely making rent while her business is providing dismal financial stability. With loan sharks out to enforce their illegal and exploitative payment plans, Hal is looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. Her mother died years ago, and she has no family to lean on—she is utterly alone. As Hal checks her mail, she receives notice that her grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway, has recently passed away and has left Hal an inheritance of some kind. Hal believes this to be a clerical error of some kind because her grandparents have been dead for years. Desperate, Hal decides that she can fraudulently try and claim this inheritance as her own—she's been conning innocent people for years as a tarot card reader and this will just be another gig for her.

When Hal arrives to the Westaway family home, she quickly finds herself immersed in a rich family history that quickly starts to crumble. Something is wrong with this family, but Hal just can't seem to grasp what is so concerning. In a world of family dynamics, betrayal, and greed; The Death of Mrs. Westaway delivers a realistic mystery crime-fiction novel that will keep you hooked from page one.

I know it's lame to compare author's works to each other, but in order to show the reasoning behind my five-star rating for The Death of Mrs. Westaway , I'm going to have to tell you how this story differs from Ware's other works. At its core, The Death of Mrs. Westaway provides a lot more atmospheric undertones than anything she's ever produced. Its gothic atmosphere provides a higher level of suspense that I have yet to see in anything else. This story is a lot more dense than In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10; you can really see the progress Ruth Ware has made in her writing and she continually fine tunes it in this story. For about a good 30% of the book, we have the characterization of Hal set perfectly. At first, I immediately felt that this was going to be a slow burn novel, but I was wrong because everything comes full circle. We see Hal's desperation come to life and her willingness to deceive to survive. Hal is not the typical alcoholic unreliable narrator that we have come to grow tired of in every suspense novel that has been published since 2015. Hal is entertaining and honestly refreshing. When we meet the secondary characters, they are all unique and interesting in their own way. Each character in The Death of Mrs. Westaway is fully developed and multi-dimensional.

After reading the synopsis, throw everything you think about Ruth Ware novels out the window. The Death of Mrs. Westaway will keep you guessing until the very end (seriously, I thought the story was winding down and was completely thrown off by the end). Thank you Scout Press/Gallery Books for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. The Death of Mrs. Westaway will be released May 29, 2018.

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.
Profile Image for Diana • Book of Secrets.
780 reviews571 followers
June 10, 2018
★ This is my 500th review posted on Goodreads! ★

First, I want to point out that stunning Gothic book cover: bleak foggy weather, black iron gate, and menacing magpies looming overhead... It fits this dark, atmospheric tale perfectly!

Harriet Westaway, who goes by Hal, ekes out a living as a tarot card reader on the pier in Brighton. Hal is alone in the world, and life is a struggle, especially during the off-season when clients are scarce.

Things are pretty bad for Hal, until one day she receives a letter telling her that she's been named as a beneficiary in her grandmother's will. However, the deceased Mrs. Westaway isn't her grandmother - but does that really have to matter?

Hal thinks that maybe her years of reading tarot cards will help her pull off a grand deception and walk away with the inheritance money. So, she's off to Mrs. Westaway's creepy ramshackle estate and the dark secrets hidden there...

This was an eerie, suspenseful, and well-written Gothic mystery. I could definitely see influences from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (which I loved). I enjoyed trying to figure out how Hal's puzzle piece fit in with this haunted family. The sinister atmosphere and delicious twists kept me glued to the pages. 4.5 stars!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
September 19, 2020
I read this one with five of our Traveling Sisters. By the time we finished this story we were spilt with how we felt about this story.

Ruth Ware does a great job of creating an engaging and intriguing story, and this story had all the elements to make it an interesting story for us all. We loved the gothic feel, the old mysterious mansions with creepy rooms that hold secrets, a shady family with an inheritance and one of our favorite characters an angry and unfriendly housekeeper. Lots of creepy good to this story.

We all started off intrigued and really liked our interesting main character tarot card reader Hal. Soon we grew to like housekeeper Mrs Warren who really gave a mysterious creepy feeling to the story as well for us. We soon meet the shady family members and that's when we started to go our separate ways on how we felt about the story. For some of us, our heads started spinning in confusion with trying to piece together who is who and who is connected to who. We were engaged enough in the story to hold our attention till the end, however, we just gave up trying to put the pieces together. For the rest of the sisters, they found it exciting and intriguing putting those pieces together and couldn't put the book down till they were done. Leaving them reading to the wee hours and feeling a little book hangover the next day.

In the end when we all came together for our final discussion as we tried to piece everything together and our heads kept on spinning till one sister rescued us with helping us figure it all out. The Death of Mrs. Westaway lead to a fun, entertaining and interesting discussion and for that reason I recommend for group discussion.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Ruth Ware for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book in exchange for a review!

This is Traveling Sisters GR Reading Group Review and it can be found posted on our blog
Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
812 reviews1,866 followers
June 18, 2018
Not my favorite

Although there were many things I liked about this one, it did not live up to my expectations. I just loved Woman in Cabin 10, but didn't really enjoy  The Lying Game. I'll try to explain why this fell flat for me.

I thought the premise was mysterious and intriguing - a letter about an inheritance that was sent to the wrong person ( I was imagining all kinds of sinister scenarios).  The mystery turned into a messed-up family drama with confusing side stories and was lacking suspense.

I did enjoy the gothic undertones and the mansion, but just felt that they were never really utilized in creating the dark mystery I was craving.

I found it too slow and not so clever, but many enjoyed this one. So read all the reviews and you may find it works for you!

Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews610 followers
August 7, 2018
Debating between 3-4 stars.

Get out- if you know what's good for you. While you still can...

This book follows the story of Hal; She has no family, she lives alone in a decaying flat, she makes her money by tarot reading during the day, she's mainly broke and she owes a lot of money to some loan sharks. When Hal receives a mysterious letter addressed to her- a letter concerning an inheritance- she is keen to find out more. She realises the letter was sent to the wrong person, however, through her skills as a tarot-reader, she hones in on her reading ability to help her claim some money. Through this she goes on a journey to the gothic mansion of Trepassen; the home of the late Mrs. Westaway- creepy, mainly uninhabited, dark, with few working lights and no central heating.

During Hal's time at Trepassen she meets a whole host of a dysfunctional family, she learns more of the strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it. Through out this book secrets are unpeeled and unveiled unto the last few chapters where all the pieces of the puzzle fits into place.

Ruth Ware does a great service to describing the creepy tone of Trepassen house. I found it similar to the haunting descriptions of Manderley ,from the book Rebecca, as well as those featured in classic literature.

Hal was a brilliant character; completely down on her luck, a loner and isolated. However, I found Hal very fascinating due to the knowledge I gained about tarot reading. Another well drawn character was that of Mrs Warren; highly strict and completely unappealing as a character- she comes across as a villain, mirroring the persona of Mrs Danvers (again from the book "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier).

This book was unputdownable as I wanted to find out more and get to the root of the secrets. I also liked the remaining and standing of the West Pier in Brighton (this pier burnt down IRL). However, this was much more of a family drama than what I was expecting (a thriller). In addition, (I think due to my teen years spending time reading thrillers) I guessed some of the secrets early on, making the unveiling of the secrets less surprising and did not add twists to the plot.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,227 reviews1,276 followers
July 31, 2018
"Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot Cards. I got a full house and four people died." (Steven Wright)

It's all in the cards......or is it?

Harriet "Hal" Westaway settles into her small booth on the pier in Brighton. She palms the Tarot cards across the table for another customer. Truth be told, Hal eyes each individual for clues into their current situations. The future doesn't always come easy and the cards often set up in contrasting ways. Hal recognizes that long face of desperation. She sees it on a regular basis on her own.

Icy rain coats the boards of the pier as she makes her way home. Once inside, there's not much difference in her apartment's temperature as it is outside. Overdue bills pile up and a near empty bank account leans into her world. Hal's also being hounded by a snaggled-nosed heavy who threatens her with bodily harm if she doesn't come up with the latest installment on her back street debt. Life's not lookin' too good about now.

But among the tombstones of debt is a letter that Hal doesn't recognize. Shaky hands open the envelope. An attorney requests Hal's presence at the funeral of her recently deceased grandmother at the Trepassen estate. Funny thing......her grandmother has been dead for many years and Hal has no living relatives. But hey, who could pass on a possible inheritance that may lift Hal out of her valley of debt?

Ruth Ware presents another storyline showcasing a female main character at her wit's end as she did in The Woman in Cabin 10. I really enjoyed that one. The character of Hal, in this one, reflects more of an unworldly young woman who has been prone to bad judgments. Her mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident outside of their apartment building. It is her mother's Tarot cards and pier business that Hal steps into after her death. She seems to always be on the receiving end of the decisions made by others.

Ware wraps her story in the gloom and doom of the Trepassen estate. Hal's struggle with her conscience vs. the truth is woven throughout. Ware also complicates the storyline with diary entries from 1994 that will reach into the present. There's a bevy of characters here that emphasize the fact that not all these fish wish for Hal to be swimming in their pond.

An entertaining read that certainly takes the long, winding road through this village. It does get a bit draggy here and there. But all in all, the chilly estate and the snarky housekeeper make up for it in aces.

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