The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware’s latest thriller, finds our protagonist, Hal, down to the last of her money.
Her mother passed away. She has no other family. She’s young, broke, and has no career skills other than reading tarot cards. And there’s a loan shark after her.
When she discovers she’s the beneficiary of a large inheritance, she knows almost at once that it’s a case of mistaken identity. She goes along with the ruse for a while, deciding whether she wants to make an actual play for the money.
Though it’s in the suspense/thriller genre, I’d call The Death of Mrs. Westaway more of a puzzler. It reminds me of the Agatha Christie novels in which a group of people, all eccentric in their own ways and harboring disparate agendas, come together.
Here and with Agatha Christie, the setting is as much a character as the actual characters.
Whether it’s the Orient Express or a large, creaky house complete with a prison room and Danvers-esque maid, the setting elicits just as much reaction and unease as fellow people.
But, for me, the most fascinating part of The Death of Mrs. Westaway is Hal’s practice as a tarot card reader. Though it’s how she makes her living, she doesn’t believe in the mystical powers of tarot cards.
”The people who came to her booth were seeking meaning and control, but they were looking in the wrong place. When they gave themselves over to superstition, they were giving up on shaping their own destiny.” – Ruth Ware, The Death of Mrs. Westaway
There’s a scene in which Hal does a reading for the family. Acutely observant, she notices every facial tic, every catch in her subject’s breath and intuits her way to the girl’s good fortune.
This is possibly Ruth Ware’s most heartwarming book. Although Hal is surrounded by greed and corruption, it’s also surprising to find that there’s also a healthy dose of love. Figuring out which emotion comes from where is the tricky part.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Published May 2018
Simon & Schuster