The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

(5 / 5)

 

Hal (Harriet) is a twenty-one-year old young woman just trying to make it through the day. Her mother died in a horrible car crash just before Hal’s eighteenth birthday leaving Hal with no family and no prospects, starving, and alone. Hal reads tarot to tourists at the Brighton beach pier, and  if she’s lucky, she makes enough money to buy fish and chips. She lives in the same ramshackle apartment she’s lived in her whole life, and she needs to make rent. She has a rough patch and takes money from a loan shark before. She is too naive to realize that the interest payments never go away—and payment is due. Her home is ransacked. She is accosted at work—no place is safe.

Hal needs a break, and a few thousand quid to get back on her feet. Then a letter comes in the mail. Hal is the recipient to her long-lost grandmother’s estate though none of the family names ring a bell. None of this makes sense. Hal can’t be the heir. It’s all some unwitting mistake. But Hal is so desperate that she must do something or die, and against all of her personal integrity, she decides to perpetrate fraud on the grieving family. Maybe she will get some money out of it. The family is rich. No harm, right?

The author exquisitely builds tension in moody methodical steps in this delightful Gothic tale. Each character Hal meets only creates more questions and doubt. Who is her father? Could she really be an heir? Can she pull off the ruse? Are these people really her family? What happened to the woman everyone thinks is Hal’s mother? After words from the menacing elderly housekeeper, Hal wants to run away. There is a threat on her life. But the questions are more than Hal can resist. Who is her father? How is she related to the out of touch dysfunctional family? She must know. And so, must we, in this suspenseful page-turner.