Ruth Ware’s fourth book, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, is another one of her great psychological thrillers.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway Cover ImageWare previously wrote three excellent novels: In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game. The latter two were on the top ten bestseller lists of The New York Times and the U.K.’s Sunday Times. All three books have been optioned for screen.

This book is good, similar fare full of twists and suspense. The story revolves around Hal, a young tarot card reader, down on her luck. She attends the funeral of a woman who has left her a mysterious inheritance. But it appears Hal was not truly the intended recipient which leads to many complications, plot twists and difficult situations

Ware was nice enough to let me interview her by email. My sister, Ellen Butki, helped me formulate the questions. Thanks to both of you.

Scott Butki: How did this story about this young woman develop?

Ruth Ware: I always find it hard to unpick all the threads that come together to make a story, but I suppose that having written three books about women who found themselves in a life changing situation mostly through no fault of their own, I wanted to write something about a character who brings the action down on themselves – someone who sets out to commit a crime. But I found it impossible to write Hal as a true anti-hero. She makes some questionable decisions, but I liked her more and more as the book went on. 

Image result for ruth wareSB: What do you think of those who compare you to Agatha Christie, as both of you not only are famous for twists but also for putting characters into situations that can lead to paranoia and violence?

RW: I take it as a huge compliment! I’m a big fan of Christie and I think her plots are pretty much second to none – so many of the features we take for granted about the genre today, she more or less developed. I would be very happy if I wrote something even a quarter as twisty and genre-defining as And Then There Were None.

SB: In your writing process, which do you see first: the overview (characters/setting/plot), the ending, or the major twist?  Do you add more twists while editing?

RW: It’s really hard to pick apart because they all come together more or less at the time, and different books develop differently. With Cabin 10 I had the ship first of all – the first image that came to me was of a woman waking up in the middle of the night in a locked cabin and hearing a splash. But who that woman was and what happened next developed at the same time, because the one influenced the other.

In a Dark, Dark Wood the physical entity of the glass house only came to me quite late on, about a quarter of the way into the book – but again the motives of the protagonists and their particular characters developed hand in hand. Character is plot, and plot is character. What we do and why is shaped by who we are – and vice versa. The twists are a bit separate – I have to figure those out as I go. Sometimes the pieces don’t fall into place until really quite late.

SB: Identity seems to be a common theme in your books. Is that intentional? Do you want readers to take away something about identity or some other lesson while reading your books?

RW: Do you know, I had never really thought about this before, but you are right! I am not sure why that is – except that I’m endlessly fascinated by people and the versions of themselves that they show to the world versus the people they are inside. I guess it’s that fascination showing. I don’t really write with an intentional lesson or message in mind – I would never presume to dictate to my readers what they should or shouldn’t find in my books, though of course there are always subjects I’m interested in, and I suppose I do often hope to make people think and question some of their assumptions.

SB: Do you believe that deeply buried secrets will/must always be revealed (in books and/or in life)? Where does this belief stem from?

RW: Actually, I am a firm believer in healthy repression 😉 Of course in books secrets usually come out – it’s back to that Chekovian idea of a gun above the mantelpiece. If you reveal that a character has a deep dark secret, there’s no point in putting it in the plot unless it’s going to come out at some point, otherwise you may as well not bring it up at all. In real life, though, we all have secrets – large and small – and bringing things out into the open isn’t always the right course of action. I think my books often show the enormous damage that can be done when secrets surface.

SB: What are you working on next?

RW: Another book of course! It’s a bit too early to talk about it though – I don’t want to jinx myself.

MysteryPeople Recommends: Sizzling Summer Reads

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Summer never ends here in Austin, TX, so as the temperatures refuse to cool down, and tempers heat up, consider the following reads to purge yourself of all those summer irritations. We’ve reviewed a host of thrillers already this summer, so if you enjoy the following recommendations, check out our reviews for Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB and Jeff Abbott’s Blame for more poolside gems. 

97812501136961He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

In the lead-up to the August 21st eclipse, eclipse-chasers can get their fix from He Said/She Said, set during a series of eclipses, with truths obscured, then slowly revealed, in perfect keeping with the setting.  This tale of unreliable narrators will keep you guessing till the very end. Kelly has created complex characters, brought together by their mutual presence in the face of a horrific, yet too-common crime, and then pushed apart by their all-too-human reactions to what they have experienced. You can find copies of He Said/She Said on our shelves and via 

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(Extremely) Unauthorized Relationship Advice Inspired by Crime Fiction: Part 2

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

We hope you enjoyed the first installment of our parody advice column from crime fiction characters – on to the more contemporary (and just as unauthorized) columns! Below, let Gillian Flynn’s Amazing Amy help you keep your boyfriend around, allow Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell to assure your niece of a successful marriage, and consider a cure for an annoying ex proposed by Ruth Ware’s Lo Blacklock. 

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If you like The Girl on the Train…

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

There are plenty of sharp-eyed, sober Miss Marples just waiting to witness a crime, but isn’t it rather more realistic to assume a boozy halo to the recollections of many a looker-on? Do we trust our own memories, or have they been warped by those who wish us harm? Unreliable narrators, disturbing domestic scenes, and the burden of witnessing are the hallmarks of Paula Hawkins’ runaway bestseller The Girl on the Train, and all are front and center in the books described below.

9781101982358The Girl Before by Rena Olson

When the feds break into her home, arrest her husband, and take her daughters from her care, Clara Lawson has no idea why – after all, she’s always tried to follow the rules, even the strict and rather disturbing regulations that marred her childhood in what she thinks was a loving home. Through flashbacks and interrogation sequences, the reader and Clara together discover her memories, and the people she once called her family, cannot be trusted… You can find copies of The Girl Before on our shelves and via

9781501132933The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I’ll admit it – I’m a huge fan of locked-room mysteries, whether they be set on a country estate, on a moving train, or as in the case of Ruth Ware’s gripping second thriller, on a luxury cruise ship’s maiden voyage. A travel journalist joins a host of other travel professionals to celebrate a miniature Titanic’s first cruise around the fjords. When she witnesses a woman’s fall off the side of the ship, she alerts the other passengers, yet the ship’s owner is more interested in questioning her sobriety than tracking down a missing woman, especially one never on the passenger manifest to begin with. You can find copies of The Woman in Cabin 10 on our shelves and via

Blow-Up: And Other Stories by Julio Cortazar 9780394728810

Cortazar’s novel of a fashion photographer who may have accidentally photographed a murder was the basis for Antonioni’s emblematic 1960s film adaptation of the same name, and through comedic lineage, the fashion photographer scenes in the first Austin Powers film. Those who enjoyed the self-doubting witness of The Girl on The Train should enjoy the photographer’s agonizing over the maybe-murderous contents of his camera. You can find copies of Blow-Up: and Other Stories on our shelves and via

Lady Noir: Five Debuts You Must Read

  • Post by Molly Odintz

Ever since Gone Girl flew off the shelves quickly enough to convince publishers that a bestseller can include an unlikable female protagonist, we’ve seen a flurry of excellent reads exploring the darker side of female psychology popping up in the mystery section. As part of my New Year’s resolution to embrace the subgenre of domestic suspense, I’ve been catching up on some of the many psychological thrillers to star complex and sometimes less-than-likable female protagonists.

The women in each of the novels discussed below may be smiling as much as the rest of us, but their interior worlds are dark, brutal, and confused; marred by competition, and healed by solidarity. Each of the following novels uses mystery conventions to tell stories about the pleasures and complexities of womanhood, and about the ungendered struggles of life. Each is entertaining, and each is quite different. 

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