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The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

BOTTOM LINE: Fantastic

Genre: Suspense; Thriller
Publication Date: 29 May 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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 an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.”

My Thoughts: More than any of her previous novels, The Death of Mrs. Westaway truly does have the feel of Agatha Christie. Some of that is due to the Gothic setting. A decrepit estate complete with overgrown grounds and a menacing housekeeper certainly fits the part. Then there is the family. The Westaway family is full of characters and secrets. Add in the mysticism of the tarot cards and you have a novel befitting something out of the early 1900s rather than the early 2000s.

In fact, everything about the novel screams turn-of-the-twentieth-century. Outside of mentions regarding cell phones and Internet searches, the novel could take place when estates still ruled England. It is a phenomenal piece of writing to make you forget just when the story takes place.

The writing is so good, and the story is so intriguing that it is easy to ignore certain idiosyncrasies. Some of what happens is predictable. Normally, that would be a deal breaker for me in any mystery, but I was completely enthralled with the story enough to ignore the predictability. In fact, I rather enjoyed seeing how my predictions would come to pass. It became a game with me, but one I played subconsciously because I was enjoying the story too much to give my hypotheses more than a passing thought. For me, this more than anything shows just how impressive the novel is.

I am not going to give anything away about this eerie and engrossing story. I do think this is one of her strongest, if not her best, novel to date. Hal is a great character, stronger, more real, less caricature-like than some of her previous characters. The setting is outstanding – perhaps one of the best, ranking right up there with Manderley or Tara. It is one of those novels that helps you forget the steamy summer temperatures outside, filling you with the same chill as Hal experiences. The mystery may not keep you guessing but the way it unfolds is fantastic. If Ms. Ware keeps writing novels like this, she is going to become one of my must-read authors.

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