The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Ruth Ware
Genres: Mystery
Pub Date: May 29, 2018 (read Apr. 2018)

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Okay, first off I love Ruth Ware and I don’t know why! I generally give her books 3 stars and yet I find them so compulsively readable that I always come back for more. I should probably start rating them higher because I cannot say no to a Ruth Ware mystery.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway was quite different from all of her other novels. It still features a young English woman as the protagonist, but the mystery element was structured differently in this book and I wouldn’t call this one a thriller. At times the central mystery seems quite obvious, but you’re never really sure what is going on or if you have it right.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway tells the story of Hal Westaway and the Westaway family. Hal is just 21 years old and after losing her mother 3 years prior in a hit and run, she is very much alone in the world. She has no family and in her struggle to make ends meet and pay the bills, she has lost contact with any friends she once had. Her mother was everything to her and she takes over her mothers booth as a tarot card reader on the Brighton Pier to survive. But Hal is falling further and further in debt and they are starting to catch up with her.

Then one evening she receives a letter about the death of Mrs. Westaway, her grandmother, and that she has been named in the will and requested at Mrs. Westaway’s estate. The problem is that Hal’s grandparents have been dead for 20 years and she believes she must have received the letter in error. But the promise of a handout is too alluring and Hal wonders if she can trick this estranged family and walk away with enough money from the will to pay off her debts.

Things are definitely off with the rest of the Westaway family though and Hal quickly starts to wonder whether everything is actually as it seems. I think Ware does an excellent job writing Hal in this story. She is totally believable and I could totally empathize with the financial mess she’s found herself in and the desperation of trying to do whatever she can to pay her bills. I enjoyed her story arc and growth throughout the novel.

I didn’t like the rest of the Westaway family though, which I guess is kind of the point because they’re all flawed and their flaws make you wonder what is actually going on with this family and what is their real history. But I found it hard to connect with any of the other characters and I didn’t find the main twist very surprising. It’s more of a “wtf is going on in this book” moment and when the twist is finally revealed it’s not really that shocking – it was totally what I was expecting, I just wasn’t really sure how the author would take me there. I also thought the red herring was super obvious, although still pretty ominous and I do think it added to the story.

Overall not my favourite Ruth Ware book, but don’t doubt for a second that I won’t still be first in line to read whatever she writes next!

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The Child Finder

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Rene Denfeld
Genres: Mystery
Pub Date: Sept. 2017 (read Mar. 2018)

I tore through this short mystery novel in 2 days. The Child Finder tells the story of Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in lost children and has gained a reputation as the ‘Child Finder’. She’s been hired by a couple in Oregon whose daughter disappeared 3 years ago into a snowy forest and was never found. Naomi grew up in Oregon and the return to the woods reminds her of her own upbringing with her foster mom and foster brother, as well as the dark past she has blocked from her memory. As she searches for Madison and her foster mom’s health declines, she must face her own past and relationships in order to ever be whole.

Setting and atmosphere are key in this novel and I loved them both. The story takes place deep in Oregon’s wilderness and in a land of perpetual winter. Denfeld integrates fairy tales into the story and I thought they worked so well against the backdrop of the snowy forest. Everything is so secluded within the park that you feel transported back in time to when trappers still ran the land and lived in their log cabins in the woods, living off the land. Naomi is very much an island herself and the setting mirrored her struggle to build relationships and set down roots. She is always on the move from one missing child case to the next, always running from her past.

I liked this as both a mystery novel and a character study. I really liked Naomi and I’d be interested in reading a sequel to see her deal with her own ghosts and guilt. She was complex, yet simple. I was impressed with how well the author crafted her character in such a short book. I love when characters are so well crafted that they take on a life of their own and you can almost anticipate how they will react because you feel you’ve come to know them so well. I felt this way about Naomi and as much as I wanted her to settle down, I understood why she always had to keep moving.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the plot. It’s a pretty simple story overall and it felt more about Naomi’s growth than the actual mystery. I liked that the author included two missing children cases, as well as snippets of Naomi’s back story, because it added a bit more intrigue to the book. I quite liked the writing. It was simple but it also had this dreamy quality to it which I thought flowed well throughout the story and is what really helped to create the atmosphere.

Disclaimer, this book does have some disturbing content, but I thought it was actually handled really well by the author. Some books are needlessly gratuitous about physical and sexual violence, and while this book has both, I thought it was well written. It offers some interesting insight into the cycle of abuse and how isolation and never knowing love can impact children and the people they grow up to be.

Then She Was Gone

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genres: Mystery
Read: Feb. 2018 (Pub date: Apr. 24, 2018 in North America)

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Jewell has been on my list of authors to try for a while now, so I was really excited to get an ARC of her new book, coming out this April. Then She Was Gone had me spellbound for pretty much an entire day. I think I read like 60% of this book in one sitting.

I actually quite like mystery/thrillers. I don’t read them all that much, but I do get really into them when I finally pick one up. The only thing is that I can get pretty disturbed by mystery novels and I definitely got disturbed by this one.

Then She Was Gone tells the story of Ellie Mack, who walked out the house one day when she was 15 years old and was never seen again. Her mother is obviously devastated by the loss of her daughter; her marriage falls apart, her relationship with her other 2 children suffers, and for 10 years, she struggles to find any kind of closure and is unable to move on. Until she meets Floyd Dunn and his daughter Poppy and finally begins to reawaken and believe she might be able to start to piece her life back together.

The format of this story is fascinating. It has 5 parts and a lot of different narrators. It is predominantly narrated by Laurel Mack, Ellie’s mother, but it does alternate to several other perspectives throughout the novel. Most notable for me was that it’s partially narrated by Ellie herself in the first part and we learn almost immediately who our main suspect for her disappearance is. I was so surprised that we learned this information so early in the story and I felt like the first part (~15%) was almost a book in itself.

From there, Laurel meets Floyd and is transported to an entirely new life. I found this part of the story a little boring, but Jewell still did a good job at keeping me intrigued because I still wanted to know what actually happened. This part mostly just felt a little in contrast with the first part of the novel, which has a super strong start. It only took 1 chapter for me to get totally into this story.

It is a little predictable what happens, but it’s so freaking weird that when I was guessing at what might have happened I was like, “surely not” and tried to dismiss my prediction. Parts of the novel are definitely very disturbing and Jewell does create subtle atmospheric changes to her writing as the novel progresses. I actually really liked the end of this book. While I predicted some parts, the end did surprise me and while parts of it are heartbreaking, I appreciated Jewell ending her story this way.

I liked Laurel’s transformation throughout the course of the novel. I was frustrated with her at times and I have to admit, I did find some of her actions a little unbelievable and not to be in line with her character.  Laurel lost her daughter and couldn’t move on for 10 years, so I found it really hard to suspend disbelief that she wouldn’t be incredibly suspicious of some of the weird coincidences of this book and that she didn’t always trust her instincts. Like I said though, this book had me totally spellbound and I would like to read some more of Jewell’s work!

Bonfire

 

Rating: 
Author: Krysten Ritter
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Read: Nov. 2017

 

You guys, this was my 100th book of 2017!!! Feeling so accomplished!!

I LOVE Krysten Ritter. I’m obsessed with her role as Jessica Jones and think the show/Krysten is just the most badass superhero ever! And her instagram account makes me love her even more. She likes to knit and read mystery novels and hang out with her dog Mikey. So I was pretty excited when I saw she was writing a novel (a legit novel too, not just another celebrity autobiography)!

Bonfire didn’t like blow me out of the water or anything, but I thought it was a pretty solid debut. The writing was pretty average, but I thought the story was interesting. Bonfire is about lawyer Abby Williams who left her hometown of Barrens at 18 after some pretty strange events took place and has been running from it ever since.

She returns to Barrens as an environmental lawyer to investigate claims that Optimal, a chemical plant that provides most of the jobs in the community, has been poisoning the water supply and that people have been starting to get sick. She hated Barrens as a teenager and is plagued by memories of her friend Kaycee, who made up a story in their senior year about being sick to exploit Optimal and then disappeared. But now that other people are starting to get sick, Abby wonders if maybe Kaycee was actually telling the truth and can’t ditch the feeling that there’s something she’s missing.

I really liked the whole environmental law angle of the book and that this wasn’t just a who-dunnit murder mystery. The plot was a bit messy in some places though. Even after finishing the book, parts of the story were unclear to me and I found the ending pretty abrupt. I pictured Abby as Jessica Jones several times and I think Ritter was trying to write a gritty kind of lawyer-gone-detective character that I couldn’t quite get into. There were a few subplots that I didn’t really see the point of and some loose ends in the plot that I didn’t like.

Overall I did like this and I’m totally impressed with Ritter for writing it. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but I would definitely read another book if she ever decides to write one!

Killman Creek

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Rachel Caine
Genres: Thriller, Horror, Mystery
Read: Dec. 2017

 

OMG, Why did I read this?? Stillhouse Lake was disturbing enough! I didn’t plan to read this one, but damn, I just had to know what was going to happen!

It’s pretty much impossible to review Killman Creek without spoilers for Stillhouse Lake since it ends on a huge cliffhanger, so if you haven’t read Stillhouse Lake yet, stop here. I won’t discuss any spoilers for Killman Creek though.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

—– spoilers for Stillhouse Lake below—–

This book picks up right where the first one left off. Most of the criminals from the prison break have been caught, but of course Melvin Royal is still on the loose. Gwen decides to leave her kids behind with Javier and Kezia and go off with Sam in search of her ex-husband.

Killman Creek is such an emotional roller coaster. If you like thrillers, then this is the book for you, my heart was beating a mile a minute every time I picked up this book. I struggled with the first book in that I found it very graphically disturbing. This one was worse in that it was really emotionally disturbing on top of still being graphic.

I thought Lanny and Connor were basically going to be absent from this book, which I would have been okay with because I can’t deal with people who mess with kids and their story-line stressed me out so much. But they still had a large role in the book and both narrated sections of the story. This definitely made it a better novel and Caine explored a lot of interesting moral themes. We get more insight into Lanny and Connor’s experiences and the emotional struggles of having a serial killer for a father. Especially for Connor who was so young when his Dad was convicted and can only remember the good things about their relationship and really wants a father figure in his life.

This book is definitely a page-turner and once I started it I could not put it down or stop thinking about it. I’m giving it 4 stars because it really is a good book and Rachel Caine definitely made me feel things, but overall it’s just not the book for me. It reminds me a little of Behind Closed Doors, which I read last year, in that it’s a good book, it was just way too dark and disturbing. I’m surprised to see there is going to be a third book next year, but fortunately this one didn’t end on a cliffhanger, so this is where I will step out from this series.