Summary: When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.
There’s just one problem — Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life …
Genre(s): Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Representation: main character living in poverty, gay secondary character, implied-bisexual minor character
Content warnings: attempted murder, mentions of infidelity, mild violence
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I had high hopes going into this, because the beginning was lovely: the tranquil scenery, Hal’s quiet desperation, our literal voice from the past slowly leading us to the secrets of the Westaway family. But somewhere along the way I started to lose investment in the story, because it was unfurling so. freaking. slowly. I couldn’t remember which of the Westaway brothers was which, which parts of Hal’s “story” were true and which were lies, and sometimes I even forgot what all the fuss was about. So it didn’t feel like a mystery — especially since Hal seems to spend her time philosophizing on the nature of humanity (as observed in tarot sessions and as explained by her mother) and the ethics of her situation, just hoping the truth will fall into her lap if she does a minimal amount of poking around and ignoring warning signs.
The reveal made sense but somehow still didn’t feel natural; Hal went from total ignorance to suddenly knowing exactly where to look to find each subsequent puzzle piece, which I found hard to believe. I will say that technically I guessed the truth as one of my throwaway theories, just because I suspect everything and everyone when I’m reading mysteries/thrillers, and I have never been less satisfied to have “called” it.
I found the climax and ending a little on the cheesy side, and I was surprised at how ambiguous the definition of family becomes, in comparison to Hal’s never-questioned beliefs about fortune/free choice, need and privilege, etc. — all of which is discussed pretty bluntly, as mentioned previously. I’m also bothered by a certain throwaway line and red herring that carries a whiff of biphobia; it’s a somewhat minor thing, but every detail matters when I’ve placed a book on the borderline of two ratings.