The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
The magpies are back. It's strange to think how much I used to hate them, when I first came to the house. I remember coming up the drive in the taxi from the station, seeing them lined up along the garden wall like that, preening their feathers.
Today there was one perched on the frost-rimed branch of yew right outside my window, and I remembered what my mother used to say when I was little and whispered 'Hello, Mr. Magpie' under my breath, to turn away the bad luck.
I counted them as I dressed, shivering next to the window. One on the yew tree. A second on the weathervane of the folly. A third on the wall of the kitchen garden. Three for a girl.
It seemed like an omen, and for a moment I shivered. Wishing, wondering, waiting...
But no, there were more on the frozen lawn. Four, five...six...and one hopping across the flags of the terrace, pecking at the ice on the covers over the table and chairs.
Seven. Seven for a secret, never to be told.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is Ruth Ware's fourth book and I've read all of them. And liked all of them - some more than others. Each are standalones and each different from those before. This book is again - different - quite Gothic with secrets and an old creepy house - with a family that doesn't get along or see each other often at all. Years, in fact. There is a majorly horrible old housekeeper - ancient and bitter. Shades of Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers. There is a death and a will and that's what brings Harriet Westaway, known as Hal, into the story.
I think that's about all I'll say about the plot. Harriet works as a Tarot card reader on the boardwalk in Brighton. She owes money. She's hasn't much. What will meeting this family bring her? Well, you'll have to read The Death of Mrs. Westaway to find out. I was mostly pleased with story. Hal got a little annoying at times, but she was young and inexperienced and way out of her depth in many ways. Some of the plot devices were predicable, but I've read a lot of thrillers and Gothics. There was definitely an ominous feel and the setting in Cornwall and awful weather contributed as well. I was cold all the time I was reading. Will I be reading the next book by Ruth Ware? Oh yes. Just try and keep me away. Ha!
Dear Miss Westaway,
Your grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway of Trepassen House, St Piran, passed away on 22nd November, at her home. I appreciate that this news may well come as a shock to you; please accept my sincere condolences on your loss.
In accordance with the wishes of your late grandmother, I am instructed to inform beneficiaries of the details of her funeral. As local accommodation is very limited, family members are invited to stay at Trepassen House where a wake will also be held.
Treswick, Nantes and Dean, Penzance
When Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – receives a letter from the blue informing her of a substantial inheritance, it seems like the answer to her prayers. The loan shark she borrowed from is becoming increasingly aggressive, and there is no way that her job as a seaside fortune-teller can clear her debts.
There is just one problem: Hester Westaway is not Hal’s grandmother. The letter has been sent to the wrong person.
But Hal is a cold reader, practised in mining her clients for secrets about their lives. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a strange woman’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
With only one way out of her problems, Hal boards a train for Cornwall, and prepares for the con of her life. But something is very, very wrong at Trepassen House. Hal is not the only person with a secret, and it seems that someone may be prepared to do almost anything to keep theirs hidden…