My favourite of Ruth Ware’s has to be In a Dark, Dark, Wood… until now! The Death of Mrs Westaway is astonishingly good and awesomely creepy. Ruth really captivates you with an eccentric bunch of characters; an estranged family that once all resided at Trepassen House, which having been left unloved for many years, is now pretty spooky.
‘When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.
There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…’
Hal is streetwise. She had to grow up pretty fast, and learn to look after herself, when her mother was killed in a hit and run when Hal was only 18-years-old. Now at the tender age of 21, she has to make a life-changing decision, does she seek out what the letter beholds, or does she leave the past where it belongs?
I loved the gothic feel to Trepassen House and the secrets it has hidden deep within its roots about the intriguing Westaway Family. There is a real dark element to the tale and I felt nervous for Hal and what could potentially unfold.
The use of tarot within the story is very clever. Hal uses the cards to help her, they are a comfort, but as Hal constantly reminds herself; the cards are not magic or psychic, but they do have a way of pointing you in a certain direction, making you more aware of things around you. It is very effective and I love how Ruth has used this topic and perfectly entwines it deep into the story.
This is a real ‘guess again’ read. I found myself trying to figure out how Hal was related to the Westaways, and why on earth her late ‘apparent’ grandmother, more or less, left her entire estate to her. Is Mrs Westaway trying to make amends with the past, or is she so cleverly leading Hal into uncovering something far more sinister? From what I could grasp from the three sons, the latter is more likely. Mrs Westaway can only be described as an old battle-axe, a real formidable lady, a woman not to cross, or perhaps a woman scorned.
As the tale unfolds, you will find yourself being sucked in deeper, feeling the tinges of suspense, and all jobs will lay abandoned until you finish the final page. I loved it, and I really think you will too!
Thank you to Sophie Painter at Vintage Books for providing me with an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
The Death of Mrs Westaway is out next month – so get hitting that pre-order button now!