Title: The Widow by Fiona Barton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.
When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…
Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, is a cleverly written mystery that is quite intriguing. This fascinating novel is written from multiple points of view (the widow, the detective and the reporter)and weaves back and forth in time, all of which provides the reader with valuable insight about the characters and the unfolding story.
Just days after her husband Glen dies in a traffic accident, Jean Taylor at long last gives in to reporter Kate Waters’ request for an exclusive interview. Having lived under a cloud of suspicion when Glen was arrested for a horrific crime, she is finally ready to all, but what exactly that entails is anyone’s guess. Of course the most pressing question about Glen’s guilt or innocence is what everyone wants to know, but equally important is whether or not Jean had prior knowledge of the crime. Curious minds would also like the answer to another question that has crossed many people’s minds: did Glen act alone or was Jean his accomplice?
Jean and Glen married young and by all accounts, their marriage was happy. Jean is the type of meek and dutiful wife who is eclipsed by her husband’s overbearing personality and she learned early in her marriage to do whatever Glen says without asking any questions. Despite overwhelming evidence, Jean never doubts his innocence and she remains by his side throughout the investigation and his subsequent arrest. Of course, she knew that Glen was up to some kind of “nonsense” but she fully believes whatever he was up to behind closed doors has nothing to do with the crime is accused of committing.
DI Bob Sparkes is involved in the case from the very beginning and he quickly becomes obsessed with solving it. He is quite methodical and thorough but there is little evidence to go on but he never gives up looking for the one clue that will crack the case wide open. Sparkes’ keen eye picks up some inconsistencies in one of the witness statements and this is just the break he has been searching for. Slowly but surely he follows the new evidence which eventually leads him to Glen Taylor. However Glen’s alibi seems unshakeable and the case goes dormant again until new information surfaces. A vital clue ties Glen to the crime and Sparkes is able to make an arrest but an overzealous attempt to make their case against him ends in disaster. In the months leading up to Glen’s death, Sparkes again uncovers new evidence, but Glen dies before he can confront him.
Despite her profession, Kate is quite compassionate and she has a good working relationship with Sparkes. She has an immediate rapport with the victim’s closest relative and they remain friendly with one another over the years of the investigation. However, she does not let this quasi friendship interfere with her efforts to snag an interview with Glen or Jean and immediately following Glen’s death, Kate steamrolls Jean into agreeing to an interview. This take charge attitude appeals to the suddenly rudderless Jean and she finally agrees to answer Kate’s questions. Just as Kate is making progress finding out the truth about whether or not Glen is guilty of crime he was accused of committing, Jean asserts her long relinquished independence and returns home. The fragile trust between the two women is irretrievably broken, renewing fears that the truth about Glen may never be revealed.
The Widow is a well-written and brilliantly executed mystery with an unusual premise that makes it stand out from other novels in the genre. Fiona Barton’s portrayal of Jean as the meek, subservient wife and Glen as the overbearing, dominant husband makes a compelling argument for Jean’s devotion to Glen and her steadfast belief in his innocence even in the face as seemingly overwhelming evidence. The suspense grows as the novel races towards a dramatic conclusion that will hopefully provide a definitive answer the burning questions about Glens’ involvement in such a horrific crime.