The Death Of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
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…
The Death Of Mrs Westaway is a cracking mystery novel, that I read in one sitting (laid down!). It has a protagonist Hal (Harriet) that I became quite fond of. Hal hasn’t had the easiest life by any measure and she is alone and facing tough choices in her young adulthood. I may or may not make the same choices she did. But I am guilty of certainly urging her to make them. I most definitely enjoyed watching the decision unfold.
The novel opens with Hal at her bleak attic flat at ‘marine view villas’. She is surrounded by final notices, hassled by loan sharks and contemplating which bill she can go without paying rent, gas or electric? She is being hassled by debt companies at work and at home. You really feel for her dire financial situation.
She receives a solicitor’s letter from a Mr Treswick of Penzance, Cornwall. He informs her due to the death of her grandmother Mrs Hester Mary Westaway, she is due a possible inheritance. He asks her to attend Trepassen House, for the funeral, wake and reading of the will.
The only issue is Hal’s Grandparents died 20yrs ago when she was a baby. Her father remains unknown and her mother has recently died. Hal is unsure who this letter is intended for, but she is sure it is not her.
‘You could claim this money, you know. Not many people could, but if anyone can pull this off it’s you’
We then see Hal in action at Brighton pier as Madame Margarida. She is a cold reader of fortunes, tarot cards and psychic predictions etc. She asks fellow pier worker Reg for advice how tells her in no uncertain terms to ‘take the money and run’. After her mothers accident and death, Hal became detached from her friends and previous social life. She is now a lonely, college dropout with no financial plan. Her loneliness really did resonate off the page. I felt so incredibly sorry for her. I echoed Reg and urged her to take the money.
‘The person she was now was not the girl she would have been’
Hal begins internet research into the mysterious Westaway’s. Looking for clues and insider information. She discovers Hester had three sons Harding, Abel and Ezra. She also uncovers a daughter Maud (feared dead).
She realises they think she is Maud’s long-lost daughter.
‘Whoever Maud Westaway had been, whatever had happened to her, she seemed to have gone without a trace’
Hal takes the train to Penzance and then the games really begin. Hal must utilise all her skill learnt at the pier to outwit the Westaway’s. The mystery of the novel unravels at Trepassen House. I was absolutely glued to the pages.
A fantastic novel and a big fat 5* from me.
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