I read something that compared Ruth Ware’s work to Agatha Christie’s, and I can definitely see the influence here. The Death of Mrs Westaway is a bit of a thriller. The main character, Hal, has been working on the pier as a fortune teller since her mother’s death, barely making ends meet, and has taken out an unwise loan to boot. So she’s tempted when she receives a letter informing her that she’s due to receive some money in the will of a Mrs Westaway, her grandmother. It seems like a dream come true, but there’s a catch — her grandmother died a long time ago…
The temptation proves too much: Hal has a lot of skill with cold reading, the art of figuring out what a client thinks and wants from little cues and leading questions. If anyone can pull off pretending to be the real heir, surely it’s Hal… so off she goes, and quickly finds herself folded into the family.
It’s not as simple as all that, of course, and it slowly becomes clear that there’s something else going on. I found the pacing a little bit odd, in retrospect; it takes quite a while to reveal that there is something deeper going on, and that it’s not just going to be a case of mistaken identity. I can’t really say too much about the twists and turns, of course. I did enjoy the fact that Hal’s family are both unpleasant in their own ways, snappish and snobbish, and yet also welcoming and deeply glad to see Hal for the sake of their lost one. It rings true: families can be awful to each other and yet turn around as a united front half a minute later.
I didn’t get deeply absorbed into it, so I wouldn’t say this was a mega-favourite, and I don’t feel called to read more of Ruth Ware’s work — but it was an enjoyable enough reading experience, and I definitely cared enough to finish it rather than write it off. In these distracted days, that’s definitely something!