Short Take: Last night I dreamt of Manderley… ahem… Trepassen again……
(*Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review*)
I have always had a weird fixation on houses, especially old ones. I read The Witching Hour by Anne Rice obsessively, not just because of the creepy stuff or hot witch-on-witch action, but for the loving descriptions of the old Mayfair house being restored. There’s just something so delicious about an ancestral home, the one that’s been in the family for decades if not centuries, and the way they tend to become a starring character in some of my favorite stories.
In The Death of Mrs. Westaway, the house is known as Trepassen, and the unlikely heroine of the story is Harriet, or Hal for short. Hal works as a tarot card reader in a somewhat run down beach town, a trade she learned from her mother, who was killed by a drunk driver shortly before the start of the book. When we meet Hal, she’s flat broke, nearly homeless, and about to have her face kicked in by some very serious loan sharks.
So when she opens a letter addressed to her, stating that her grandmother has died, and Hal is the sole heir of a massive estate, it seems like things might finally be breaking her way. Ok, the grandmother is someone she’s never heard of, and the person named as her mother in the letter is another stranger, and the letter was probably never meant for her in the first place, but if anyone could pretend to be the missing heir, it would have to be an experienced fortune teller.
And so, Hal travels to Trepassen, where she has to pretend to be a long-lost relative of people she’s never met. In order to play the part Hal tries to quietly snoop and learn as much as she can about them, but when her digging starts turning up skeletons that someone would rather keep buried, things take a Turn For The Worse.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but I couldn’t help but feel like Ruth Ware had read Rebecca a whole bunch of times and used it as a template.
Chick with dude’s (nick)name? Check.
Ancestral home with dark secrets being investigated by our heroine? Check.
Creepy housekeeper screwing with our heroine at every turn? Check.
[spoiler] hidden in a [spoiler]? Check.
That last is a MAJOR plot point that I won’t describe, because it would be a huge spoiler and everyone would hate me forever after, but trust me – it was lifted directly out of Rebecca.
Of course, there are still plenty of differences, and overall, Mrs. Westaway is a lot of fun (especially the tarot stuff), but to me, there were just too many similarities, and it was distracting.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and an Ace of Swords, just because it looks cool).