Bingo, The Turn of the Key: Free! (borrowed from an in-law)
Bingo, The Death of Mrs. Westaway: Fauna (the magpies on the cover play an important role in the book)
The Turn of the Key: This mystery is a retelling of The Turn of the Screw (which I’ve never read). The only reason I read it was because I got a free copy, and while I didn’t exactly like it, I also found that I needed to know what had happened and didn’t really want to put it down. The story involves a nanny traveling to the wilds of Scotland to care for the children of two parents who are often absent. It’s sort of a haunted house story, as the house–fitted out by its architect owners with the latest technology–has a mind of its own, with alarms going off and lights turning on and off seemingly at random.
The story is structured as a series of letters the nanny is writing to her lawyer from prison, after she’s been convicted of murdering one of the children. The mystery revolves around learning which child died, and who actually killed them and why. There’s also another twist, which explains some of the nanny’s motivations.
As far as these things go, this book wasn’t bad. I didn’t love it and I’ll never read it again, but it certainly held my interest and I actually liked the twist at the end.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway: I found that I wanted to read more Ruth Ware after finishing The Turn of the Key, and this one was pretty highly rated. It’s the story of a poverty-stricken tarot card reader, Hal (Harriet), receiving a letter informing her that her grandmother has died and left her a significant inheritance–except it’s a case of mistaken identity and Hal isn’t the woman’s granddaughter. In desperate need of money, she decides to go along with a charade to see if she can get the inheritance anyway. Upon meeting the family of the deceased Mrs. Westaway, it’s clear that something is not quite right in this family, and that somehow, she is actually connected to them.
Just like The Turn of the Key, this held my interest and I finished it quickly. I found it to be a little scarier, with one scene that I still have trouble getting out of my head. Hal’s recklessness in pursuing the inheritance keeps the story interesting, and the family of Mrs. Westaway is full of the usual assortment of characters who aren’t quite what they seem (the creep isn’t actually a creep, the nice ones may be psychotic–you know the drill). The end of this one wasn’t nearly as satisfying as The Turn of the Key, and I found the antagonist’s motivation to be a little weak. Still, it was exciting, and again, as far as this kind of story goes–it was pretty good.