Thursday, 28 June 2018

Book Review: The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs Westaway was a delicious read.

Twenty-one year old Harriet (“Hal”) Westaway is on her uppers - barely scratching a living by reading tarot cards in a kiosk on Brighton pier, and heavily in debt to loan sharks. Undoubtedly, Hal’s situation is dire and since the unexpected death of her beloved mother, she has no one to fall back on. When she receives a letter from a solicitor advising of a bequest from her deceased grandmother, it should seem heaven sent -  except for the fact that Hal knows the lady in question can’t possibly be her grandmother. But the wolf is not only at but inside the door and Hal is all out of options, so she uses the last of her money to travel to Cornwall - to Trepassen, the country house of the late Mrs Westaway.a

Hal has no idea what to expect, but what she finds is still a surprise. Trepassen is a chilly Gothic pile complete with creepy housekeeper - and not everyone is pleased to see her. Hal herself, all too aware of her own deception and feeling she has no right to be there at all, is just hoping her skills as a “cold reader”, honed in her kiosk on the pier, will see her through. The late Mrs Westaway still looms large over her family, and in the wake of her death, secrets, lies and dangers will be uncovered...

I’ve enjoyed all of Ruth Ware’s books but I think this is her best yet - the plot is intriguing and the character of Hal very engaging. It’s easy to sympathise with the situation in which she finds herself at the beginning, and all her actions and reactions seem credible.

A very enjoyable read with the tarot reading element, while not integral to the plot, adding an unusual and intriguing additional dimension.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Everything About You by Heather Child: Review

For Freya, a young woman in her early twenties living in a near-future London, life isn’t going that well - her flatmate/ex-boyfriend has all but disappeared into an alarming world of virtual porn, and her job at a furniture store has been largely replaced by a hologram. And she’s still haunted by the disappearance - and presumed death - eight years earlier of her foster sister, Ruby.

When Freya acquires a smartface - a virtual assistant which can take on the personality of a real person, using their freely available data - she is shocked to find it “becoming” her lost sister. But as the smartface seems to know things about Ruby which it really shouldn’t, Freya becomes convinced her sister is still alive somewhere.

Freya’s search for Ruby - or at least some answers about what has happened to her - takes her deep into a frightening virtual world, then off grid entirely...

Where Everything About You really triumphs is in its careful depiction of a fully realised near-future world where smart tech pervades every aspect of life and everyone’s data is constantly mined - often by those with their own agendas. It really doesn’t seem far away at all,  does it? It’s impressively detailed, down to the small things (haptic suits, digital wallpaper and pizza delivery drones).

The date isn’t given, though there are clues (Prince George is apparently at Cambridge - so it’s likely about fifteen years in our future).

I loved this book, which is inventive, exciting and alarmingly plausible. Highly recommended!