The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

1. First lines  2. Publisher: Simon and Schuster (Gallery/Scout Press) 3. Last Will and Testament. Licence: CC-BY-SA Photo by:Airman st Class Rachel Loftis  4. The magpies of Winter. Public Domain via flickr
Sinister uncles, cruel grandmother  –  and the housekeeper? Evil or not? Unexpected bequests, surprising tarot card readings, mistaken identities. Who’s who here?  

Quotes from the book: 

  • “She should have been afraid, and part of her was. But deep down, in the core of herself, the secret predatory self that she kept hidden and locked away, Hal knew. She would not run again. Someone had tried to scare her away once, and it had almost worked. But it would never work again.”
  • “There is no higher meaning. Sometimes things happen for no reason. Fate is cruel, and arbitrary. Touching wood, lucky charms, none of it will help you see the car you never saw coming, or avoid the tumour you didn’t realize you had. Quite the opposite, in fact. For in that moment that you turn your head to look for the second magpie, in the hope of changing your fortune from sorrow to joy – that’s when you take your attention away from the things you can change, the crossing light, the speeding car, the moment you should have turned back.”                                   

Plot summary

Twenty-one year old Hal is alone and destitute after her mother dies in a car accident, earning a little as a tarot card reader on Brighton Pier. An unexpected letter informs her of a bequest from her maternal grandmother, who had died many years ago. Even though Hal sees that it must be a mistake, she heads out to Cornwall to claim the inheritance because she is desperate to repay her debts.

Other editions

Penguin (Imprint: Harvill Secker)        Penguin (Imprint: Vintage)

Extract online.
Author’s website


  • “A classic never goes out of style. Consider the confident simplicity of the dry martini, the Edison lightbulb and Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. Now, add to that list Ruth Ware’s new novel, The Death of Mrs Westaway. Here’s a suspense tale so old-fashioned, I’m hard-pressed to recall an element of it that doesn’t derive straight from the “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” playbook.” Full review: Washington Post
  • “Unfortunately, the ending of the novel (arguably the most important part of a thriller) falls flat. Much of the final reveal is predictable, and doesn’t fill the book’s plot holes. The parts that were surprising lacked an appropriate motive. Even after the conclusion is revealed, the reader is left wondering why these characters acted this way to begin with. The disappointing ending is unfortunate, because Ware is a gifted writer who can evidently create wonderfully spooky atmospheres within her books.” Full review: The Harvard Crimson

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