Hal is down on her luck–in serious debt and unsure of where to turn. So when a letter arrives telling her that she is the beneficiary of a will, she finds the opportunity difficult to pass up. Never mind that the letter was clearly sent to the wrong person. She’s never heard of a Mrs. Westaway, and there’s no way she’s a long-lost granddaughter.
But when Hal shows up in Cornwall at Trepassen House for the funeral, she finds a family with a lot of secrets and a lot of baggage–and more than a little of it just might have to do with her. Uncovering the truth, however, might prove fatal.
I like how tight the writing and focus of the story are. The narrative goes back and forth between Hal and entries in a diary that she finds, but we spend most of the time with Hal. Her moral quandaries and her desire to finally learn the truth about herself are the driving forces of the narrative. Her strong bond with her mother plays a huge role, as well. All of the characters are interesting, and there’s a feeling of looming threat and mystery. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric story, too–it’s always cold and raining or snowing in this book, lending a bleak and isolated kind of feel.
There are a couple of nods to Rebecca, which suit the atmosphere well. That would actually be a good readalike for The Death of Mrs. Westaway, as would some of V.C. Andrews’ early work. There’s a wonderful classic feel to this book, even though the setting is contemporary. If you enjoy Gothic tales of family secrets, old manor houses, and long-buried crimes, give this one a look!