I love gothic dramas and this mystery thriller has all the elements of those gothic novels of yesteryear. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and let us not forget Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, truly some of my favourite novels where you decry the naïve protagonist and the terrible choices they make and the trouble they then get into. And The Death of Mrs Westaway will take its place in this great list of gothic mysteries as a new favourite.
Harriet, Hal to her friends, orphaned, alone and in trouble with a local loan shark, gets a letter that seems like an amazing solution to all her problems. Mrs Westaway has died and identified Hal as her granddaughter and there is a monetary bequest. But Hal cannot possibly be the granddaughter identified, can she? She decides to brazen it out as any few thousand pounds will make a difference between being beaten and homeless and survival. She sets off to Trespassen House, a huge run down mansion with an attic room with locks on the outside and bars on the window – and yes you guessed it, this is Hal’s designated room.
There is a vindictive housekeeper, a family of three brothers with secrets of their own and a family life no one would envy with a mother who seemed to hate their very existence. Where does Hal’s mother fit in this family? Was she really a part of them? The reader is given a bit of a heads up on the past with snippets from Hal’s mother’s diary so we really do get to panic at Hal’s bad choices – and yes there is a storm, a cellar, a spooky boat shed and three suspicious brothers. Who is Hal’s father? Who is Hal’s mother? And why does this need to remain a secret?
It really is a clever novel that blends gothic horror, with mystery and psychological family drama in a dark tale with a twist. The writing is dense as you are immersed in Hal’s thoughts as she moves from through grief, fright, guilt, curiosity with a fierce will to survive no matter what.
Not for the faint hearted. Totally recommended as a great holiday read.
Also available in large print
And Audio MP3