Friday Book Whimsy: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

When author Ruth Ware comes out with a new novel, I always get sucked in by the title. The Woman in Cabin 10; In a Dark, Dark Wood; The Lying Game. Her latest thriller caught my attention for the same reason: its title. The Death of Mrs. Westaway sounds like it could have been written by Agatha Christie.

I have always been somewhat disappointed by Ware’s stories, however. Her writing is respectable and the stories are always interesting enough that I keep on reading. It’s generally her characters that I find troubling. I have to find something in a protagonist to like or the book will leave me dissatisfied.

I found The Death of Mrs. Westaway to lean somewhat in that direction; yet, I found the main character — a young woman named Hal — to be a bit more likable and less one dimensional.

Hal’s life is at its lowest point. Her mother (she never knew her father) has died. Hal’s career as a tarot card reader like her mother barely covers her living expenses. In fact, she is in debt to a low-life lender who has threatened death if she doesn’t fork up the money in short order. Money she simply doesn’t have.

And then she receives a letter telling her that her grandmother has died and she has been left an inheritance. Voila! This could be the answer to all of her money problems. There is only one problem. Her grandmother died years ago. The letter must have come to her in error. Still, what harm could there be in playing dumb and going to the funeral and the subsequent meeting with the lawyer?

Well, it turns out things get more and more complicated when Hal finds out that she not only was mentioned in the will, but Grandmother left her the whole shooting match — most of her money and the estate in which she lives. The estate which is INCREDIBLY SPOOKY. Hal’s new aunts and uncles aren’t thrilled with this notion, though they try to be nice to her.

But not only is the estate spooky, there is a very creepy housekeeper who dotes uncomfortably on one of Hal’s new uncles. This could be Mrs. Danvers’ (of Rebecca fame) younger sister.

While Hal’s new family appears to be understanding, it quickly becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want her to be around. And why are there pictures of her mother — her real-life mother who by all accounts isn’t even related — around the house?

The story is tied up quite satisfactorily if somewhat predictably. Still, I found this to be my favorite of all Ruth Ware’s novels. Having said that, I must tell you that The Death of Mrs. Westaway is no Rebecca by a long shot.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: In a Dark, Dark Wood

searchYou’ve got your cabin in the woods, a gathering of friends, loss of cell service, thunder storms, and the inevitable murder, creating quite an unnerving tale of jealousy and insecurity.

What I found particularly disturbing in Ruth Ware’s creepy In a Dark, Dark Wood was the cabin itself, which for me provided the utmost in scariness. Smack dab in the middle of a deserted wooded area sits a house made entirely of glass. The trees provide the only cover, but also the spookiness. There is no privacy and no protection.

Nora is a 26-year-old writer who is invited to a friend’s bachelorette party that is being held in the glass house in the dark, dark woods. Though she has literally not spoken to her friend in over a decade, she agrees to attend. I admit I found that premise to be suspect. Why is she invited, and why on earth would she accept?

Upon arriving at the glass house, Nora learns that the man to whom her friend is engaged is none other than her old boyfriend, someone who broke her heart years before and for whom she has pined ever since.

The gathering includes a decidedly unsettling group of friends, particularly the woman who has put the weekend together. She seemed to come straight from a Stephen King novel.

Somewhere in the middle of the book (yes, it takes that long), the groom-to-be is murdered right there in the house. Why was he there and guess who all clues point to? Yes, the murderer can only be Nora herself.

Except we know it’s not her. But the reader really doesn’t know who the murderer is until the very end because the book has a multitude of red herrings.

I’m sounding cynical, but I actually liked the book a lot. It was spooky enough, but not enough to keep a reader awake at night. The setting and the author’s descriptions provide a sinister element that is suitably spooky.

My main complaint is the lack of a realistic premise. I can’t see any reason why Nora agreed to attend, nor does Nora’s fixation with the groom, with whom she had a brief high school relationship, seem convincing.

Still, I recommend the book. I am looking forward to reading Ware’s newest book The Woman in Cabin 10. It is reported to be the next The Girl on the Train. That’s a shock, isn’t it?

Here is link to the book.