The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware, Author; Imogen Church, Narrator
A young woman named Harriet Westaway works on a pier in London, reading the Tarot cards to gullible people. She is 21 and lives alone. Three years ago, her mother died in a tragic accident, and she was forced to leave school and take up her mother’s place in the booth on the pier, reading the cards in order to support herself. Her bills soon piled up, forcing her to borrow money from an unscrupulous source. The interest fees were huge and as her balance grew, it became harder and harder to keep up with the payments. When the debt collector came to demand more money, he threatened her with bodily harm, and refused to renegotiate the terms of her loan. He left her in a state of terror. She had no idea how she would get the money to pay him.
Then, out of the blue, she found a letter she had misplaced and discovered that she had been named as a beneficiary in the will of someone who professed to be her grandmother. Hester Westaway, had died and named her specifically in the document. The lawyer confirmed this. Still, she knows that her real grandmother died years ago. Since they shared the same surname and her own mother had the same first name as Hester’s deceased/missing daughter, she decided to try and impersonate the heir. She knew, after carefully checking the documents that she had, that she was not the real granddaughter, but she was desperate for money. She traveled to the funeral of Mrs.Westaway, and then she went to a place called Trepasen House, the mansion where her supposed grandmother had lived. Although it had not been kept up in recent years, the size of the property and house were beyond her wildest dreams. Soon, however, it was destined to also turn into a nightmare.
At first, she discovered relatives that she never knew of, naturally, since she knew she was not the real Harriet Westaway. They were so welcoming and kind, that she was overwhelmed with the desire for a family. She hated being so alone in the world. With no knowledge of her father, and her mother gone, she felt totally adrift, Soon, because of their gracious acceptance of her, she was consumed with guilt about her deception, as well as fear for her life from the debt collector.
When the lawyer revealed that she had inherited the lion’s share of the estate, the family was in shock. She fainted dead away and realized that she could no longer pull off this deception. She had only hoped for a small amount of money to repay her debts and move on with her life. Now, as the family overcame their shock and were still exceedingly kind to her, she believed that she could not go on with the charade. Still, her fear of the man who had threatened her, if she could not repay her debt, overwhelmed that shame and each time she hoped to confess, she weakened and continued the pretense.
As the situation grew more complicated, she discovered that her new “uncles” all had secrets. She wondered why the housekeeper was always angry, especially with her, and she began to feel threatened by her attitude toward her. She even began to wonder if someone wanted to harm her, but she could not fathom a reason for that.
Suddenly, she realized she that she did have some connection to this house and family, and she set out to discover the secrets of Trepasen House, and the Westaways. She needed to find out who she really was, who her father was, and why she was named in the will. In her effort to solve these mysteries of her background, many untold secrets were revealed, and she soon discovered that she might be in grave danger.
As the twists and turns continued without abating, the skilled pen of the author keeps the reader guessing until the very end when she ties up everything neatly, except for what happens to the debt collector! I was left wondering if justice was done and the lenders were punished for their exorbitant interest rates and threats to their clients. It was a thread of the story, a small detail, that probably few others will be bothered by, because the rest of the story was complete.